(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump’s legal team called the Justice Department’s rationale for opposing the appointment of a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago a “convoluted theory” and is seeking access to the unredacted affidavit that supported the search warrant.
The court filing Wednesday was a reply to the Justice Department’s filing Tuesday that opposed a special master and revealed that documents were “likely concealed or removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago in an effort to obstruct its investigation into the former president’s handling of classified materials.
Prosecutors argued a special master is unnecessary because a DOJ filter team has already gone through the documents to separate out any that are covered by attorney-client privilege. In response, Trump’s team on Wednesday contended the review team was only directed to look at documents taken from the “45 Office” and not anywhere else on the property.
“The Affidavit does not include any assertion or articulation that potentially privileged information would be confined to the ’45 Office,’ rather than distributed throughout the Premises,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Accordingly, there was no justification for limiting the Privilege Review Team’s search to the ’45 Office.'”
Trump’s lawyers also said it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that there were classified materials at the Palm Beach, Florida, home, a discovery that was made when the National Archives and Records Administration found some in 15 boxes of records that were returned from Mar-a-Lago in January.
“Simply put, the notion that Presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been cause for alarm,” lawyers wrote. “Rather, as contemplated under the (Presidential Records Act), NARA should have simply followed up with Movant in a good faith effort to secure the recovery of the Presidential records.”
That good faith effort has been a key point of contention between the DOJ and Trump’s counsel. The criminal investigation was launched after NARA’s discovery, and the Justice Department subsequently issued a subpoena for the missing records.
When agents went to Mar-a-Lago in June, a representative for Trump certified that all classified records had been returned and were only stored in one place — a storage room. But when agents searched the home earlier this month, they also found documents in Trump’s office, including some in desks.
Trump’s lawyers contend that June 3 meeting was mischaracterized by the DOJ.
“If the Government provided the same untrue account in the affidavit in support of the search warrant, then they misled the Magistrate Judge,” they wrote.
The Tuesday DOJ filing included a single photo of some of the documents found, which Trump’s lawyers said were spread on the floor by FBI agents for “dramatic effect.” In the photo, papers bearing classification markings — at least five marked “Top Secret // SCI” — are laid out on the floor next to a Banker’s Box with picture frames, one displaying a Time magazine cover.
Trump reacted to the photo through his social media app, Truth Social, hitting back in a series of posts.
“Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!,” he wrote in one of the posts.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in a previous order signaled “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master but allowed the DOJ and Trump to file written responses before making a final determination. A hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.