Trump lawyers oppose Justice Department request on classified documents

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 3, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Monday objected to the U.S. Justice Department’s request to continue reviewing the contents of classified documents seized by the FBI at its Florida estate last month. the latter as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

In a court filing, his lawyers also asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to include the nearly 100 documents marked as classified that were among more than 11,000 documents recovered during the court-approved search on August 8 in a next review of the material by an independent. arbiter, called special master.

In another development, the Justice Department indicted a Texas woman who prosecutors accused of making phone threats against Cannon, including saying the judge was “marked for murder.” This incident is the latest example of reported threats against various federal authorities in recent months. Read more

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Trump is under investigation by the Justice Department for keeping government records – some of which have been marked as highly classified, including “top secret” – at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach after having left office in January 2021. The department is also examining a possible obstruction of the probe.

The special master, who has not yet been appointed, could ban the department from using certain documents. FBI agents recovered the records in a court-approved search on August 8. Read more

Cannon previously blocked the department from immediately using seized records in the investigation, a move that will slow prosecutors’ work and make it harder for them to determine whether additional classified material might be missing. Read more

Trump’s lawyers in Monday’s filing said he disputed the department’s assertion that the hundred or so documents at issue were in fact classified, and they reminded Cannon that a president generally has broad powers to declassify. the documents. They stopped short of suggesting that Trump had declassified the documents, a claim he made on social media but not in court filings.

“There still remains disagreement as to the classification status of the documents,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The government’s position therefore assumes a fact not yet established.”

If the judge decides the Justice Department cannot continue to rely on the classified documents for its criminal investigation or insists on letting the special master review them, prosecutors have vowed to appeal to a higher court.

“In what is at its core a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, the government is improperly seeking to criminalize the 45th President’s possession of his own presidential and personal records,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

“The government should therefore not be allowed to skip the process and jump straight to a pre-determined conclusion,” they added.

The document investigation is one of several federal and state investigations Trump has faced since his tenure and in the private sector. He suggested he could run for president again in 2024.

Following the search, Trump’s attorneys requested the appointment of a special master to review the seized documents for material that may be covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege – a legal doctrine that can protect certain presidential records from disclosure.

In ruling in favor of Trump’s request last week, Cannon rejected Justice Department arguments that the records belong to the government and that because Trump is no longer president, he cannot claim executive privilege. . Cannon was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020. Read more

If the special master decides that some of the material is covered by Trump’s privilege claims, it could hamper the government’s investigation.

On Friday, the Justice Department nominated retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith to serve as special masters, while the Trump team nominated federal judge Raymond Dearie and former deputy attorney general Paul Huck. Florida. Both sides are expected to give the judge later Monday their views on the other’s proposed nominees.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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