The FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after obtaining evidence that there was likely an effort to conceal classified documents in defiance of a grand jury subpoena and despite his attorneys suggesting otherwise, the Justice Department said in a court filing.
The narrative – contained in a Justice Department filing that opposed Trump’s request for an independent review of documents seized from Mar-à-Lago – was the most detailed picture of potential obstruction of justice drawn up by the government to date.
“Efforts were likely made to impede the government’s investigation,” the Justice Department alleged in its filing Tuesday night.
Among the new revelations of 36 page folder were that FBI agents recovered three classified documents from desks inside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago office and additional classified files from a storage room, contrary to what lawyers for the former president told the Department of Justice.
The Justice Department said in the brief that after a lawyer for Trump accepted service of a subpoena in May for documents removed from the White House, Trump’s attorney and records custodian in June gave the government a single, double-sealed Redweld legal envelope that contained the documents.
When Trump’s attorney and guardian turned the file over to Jay Bratt, the Justice Department’s counterintelligence official, the guardian produced and signed a letter certifying that a “diligent search” had been made and that all documents responding to the subpoena were returned.
The former president’s attorney also told Bratt that all of the documents in the envelope came from a Mar-a-Lago storage room, that there were no other documents anywhere else in the complex and that all boxes of documents brought from the White House were searched, the Justice Department said.
The custodian who signed the letter was identified by two sources familiar with the matter as Christina Bobb, a member of Trump’s in-house legal team, although a copy of the letter reproduced by the Justice Department in the file has redacted the name of the custodian.
But the FBI subsequently uncovered evidence through multiple sources that classified documents remained at Mar-a-Lago in defiance of the subpoena, and that other government documents were “likely” hidden and removed from the storage room, according to the file.
The Justice Department said in its brief that the evidence – details of which were redacted in the partially unsealed search warrant affidavit last week – enabled it to obtain a warrant to enter Mar-a-Lago , where FBI agents found more classified documents in Trump’s private. Desk.
“The government seized 33 pieces of evidence, mostly boxes,” during its search of Trump’s Palm Beach compound, Florida, the record says. “Three classified documents which were not in boxes, but rather in the offices of ‘Office 45’, were also seized.”
Illustrating the contents of the August 8 seizure, in a exhibit resembling how the Department of Justice would show the results of a drug seizure, the file included a photo of recovered documents bearing classification markings including the designations ” top secret” and “secret”.
The Justice Department added that the documents most recently collected by the FBI included documents marked as “compartmentalized sensitive information”, while other documents were so sensitive that FBI counterintelligence agents examining the documents had need additional security permissions.
“The fact that the FBI,” the filing states, “recovered twice as many documents with classification marks as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s attorney and other representatives had weeks to perform, seriously calls into question the statements made in the June 3 certification.”
After painting an extraordinary picture of the hurdles the Justice Department had to overcome to even retrieve government-owned documents, prosecutors argued that Trump had no reason to seek the appointment of a so-called special master to view records.
The request for a special master in this case fails, according to the filing, because Trump is trying to use the potential of executive privilege to withhold executive branch documents — something the Supreme Court decided in Nixon v. GSA did not hold. not.
The Justice Department added that even if Trump could somehow successfully assert executive privilege, it would not apply to the current case because the documents marked classified were seized as part of a criminal investigation into the very processing of the documents themselves.
Trump should pursue his special master’s request and obtain a more detailed list of documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, according to a source close to his legal team, who also disputed that the Justice Department filing raised the issue. likelihood of an obstruction charge.
On Tuesday morning, before the Justice Department filed its response minutes before a court-mandated midnight deadline, Trump added a third attorney, former Florida solicitor general Christopher Kise, to his outside legal team, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.