Lawyers for former President Donald Trump said Monday that they oppose allowing the Justice Department to resume reviewing the more than 100 classified government documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an investigation into his handling of government records.
The Trump team’s widely anticipated opposition came in a court filing after federal prosecutors asked a federal judge last week to lift an order barring them from viewing the documents and authorizing the appointment of a special master to assess the seized files.
The judge, Aileen Cannon of the federal district for southern Florida, gave the Trump lawyers until Monday to file their response.
Arguing that the judge’s order for a special master is a “sensible preliminary step towards restoring order from chaos,” attorneys for Trump asked Cannon to reject the government’s motion.
“In short, the merits of this matter do not support staying the Court’s Order pending the Government’s appeal,” they wrote. “Accordingly, and in light of the remaining stay factors, the Court should deny the Government’s motion.”
Last Monday, Cannon ordered the appointment of a special master to determine whether any of the seized documents are privileged and should be returned to Trump. She also barred investigators from accessing the classified documents for investigative purposes.
On Thursday, the Justice Department said it would appeal Cannon’s order if she doesn’t allow FBI agents to resume viewing the seized documents. Lawyers for the department argued that barring the FBI agents from gaining access to the records would undermine a separate national security assessment because the same agents are assisting the review by the intelligence community.
The Trump lawyers countered that the Justice Department’s claim of “irreparable damage” to national security appears exaggerated, asserting that the intelligence community’s review is “another facet” of the FBI investigation.
The monthslong controversy centers on the discovery of hundreds of pages of classified documents at Trump’s Florida club more than a year after he left the White House. It is one of several criminal investigations that have dogged Trump since the end of his presidency.
Under the Presidential Records Act, Trump was required to turn over the documents to the National Archives. The FBI learned later that Trump had held on to some documents despite repeated efforts by the National Archies to retrieve them.
That triggered a criminal investigation. As part of that probe, the FBI executed a search warrant at the premises on August 8, seizing nearly 13,000 items and documents, including more than 100 documents bearing classified markings.
The Justice Department and the Trump legal team remain at loggerheads over access to the documents and the appointment of a special master.
On Friday, the two sides proposed two candidates each for the role of the independent arbiter but differed over the official’s purview.
The Trump lawyers proposed that the special master be allowed to view all seized documents and to be given 90 days to complete the work.
The Justice Department wants the special master to view only non-classified documents and to finish the job by October 17.