Justice Department officials told a federal judge late Tuesday that the appointment of a special master to oversee a review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate earlier this month was “unnecessary” and would impede the government’s investigation into the president’s handling of classified documents, along with an ongoing national security risk assessment.
In a lengthy rejoinder to Trump’s request for an independent screener, prosecutors also refuted claims that the former president had cooperated with authorities in the months leading to the unprecedented Aug. 8 searches. Justice officials asserted that Trump’s lawyers prohibited investigators in June from viewing the contents of boxes inside a storage room “to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”
Two months later, FBI agents descended on the property where they discovered 11 sets of classified documents among the more than 20 boxes removed from the property.
“The legal issues presented, and the relief requested in the filings, are narrow, notwithstanding the wide-ranging meritless accusations leveled against the government in the motion,” Justice officials argued, referring to the Trump request. “Not only does Plaintiff lack standing to raise these claims at this juncture, but even if his claims were properly raised, Plaintiff would not be entitled to the relief he seeks.”
Included in the Justice filing was a photograph, showing how investigators found top secret records, some of them designated at the highest classifications in government, strewn about a carpeted storage room, next to a box of magazines.
The Justice filing comes a day after prosecutors notified a federal judge that a “limited set of materials” which may be protected by attorney-client privilege were identified among the documents seized in this month’s search of Trump’s Florida estate.
In a brief court filing, Justice officials said they had completed the review of information recovered in the search and are addressing any privilege “disputes.”
While Trump’s lawyers have called for the appointment of a special master or third party to screen the documents for any privileged information, federal authorities said a so-called “privilege review team” had already been assigned to do the same thing.
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Trump’s lawyers had called for a halt to the document review until a special master was appointed, but US District Judge Aileen Cannon did not grant that request.
Cannon, who last week signaled her intention to appoint a document master, has set a hearing on the matter for 1 pm Thursday.
The legal dispute is playing out as a separate federal court in Florida authorized the release of the heavily redacted affidavit used to support the unprecedented search, indicating that possible “evidence of obstruction” could be found at Trump’s property.
Federal investigators also revealed in the affidavit that an initial tranche of 15 boxes of documents transferred from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives and Records Administration in January included 184 classified documents, including some marked as “HSC” relating to clandestine human sources.
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The disclosure has prompted a separate assessment of whether the unsecured documents pose any new threat to national security. Justice acknowledged this week that US intelligence officials are in the process of conducting the risk assessment.
Trump lawyers, in their initial call for a special master, cast the search in stark political terms and described the government’s search warrant as overly broad because it authorized FBI agents to seize “boxes of documents merely because they are physically found together with other items allegedly within the scope of the warrant.”
The former president’s attorneys also accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of using the criminal justice system to alter the political landscape.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ says Trump request for special master would impede document probe