WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys on Monday said they oppose the US Justice Department’s request to continue to review classified documents seized by the FBI from his Florida estate last month in an ongoing criminal investigation.
In a court filing, his lawyers also asked US District Judge Aileen Cannon to require an independent arbiter, called a special master, to include the roughly 100 documents with classification markings in its review of more than 11,000 records recovered during the court-approved Aug 8 search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Trump is under investigation for retaining government records, some of which were marked as highly classified, at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office in January 2021. The government is also investigating possible obstruction of the probe.
His lawyers in the filing said Trump disputes the Justice Department’s claim that the 100 records in question are in fact classified, and they reminded Cannon that a president generally has broad powers to declassify records.
However, they stopped short of suggesting that Trump had declassified the documents — a claim he has made on social media but not in any official court filings.
“There still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents,” they wrote. “The government’s position therefore assumes a fact not yet established.” The clash between the Justice Department and Trump over how to treat classified material puts Cannon on the hot seat to make a decision. If she rules that the Justice Department cannot continue relying on the classified materials for its criminal probe or insists on letting the special master review them, prosecutors have threatened to appeal to the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
“In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, the government wrongfully seeks to criminalise the possession by the 45th President of his own presidential and personal records,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.