Top-secret documents found at Donald Trump’s Florida home “likely were hidden” to thwart FBI investigation into former president’s possible mishandling of classified material, explosive new Justice Department lawsuit says.
The document, released late Tuesday night, provides the most detailed account of a year and a half effort to recover hundreds of classified documents that were illegally delivered to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate when he left office in January 2021.
And the obstruction statement puts additional legal pressure on the former Republican president, who has denied all wrongdoing and condemned the FBI’s unprecedented “witch hunt” raid on his palatial home this month.
Trump’s lawyers responded Wednesday with a statement calling the government’s prosecution of the documents “unjustified,” saying that the former president’s possession of sensitive information “should never have raised alarms,” and describing the raid as “unprecedented, unnecessary, and not legally supported.”
The Aug. 8 raid was prompted by a review of “highly classified” documents that Trump finally turned over to authorities in January of this year – after months of negotiations with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The Justice Department launched an investigation into the case after 15 boxes were found to contain national defense information, including 184 documents marked as confidential, classified or top secret, government affidavits revealed.
After a request from the FBI, Trump’s lawyer eventually handed over 38 more classified documents and provided “under oath confirmation” that they were the latest of the materials.
But the case didn’t stop there: the FBI uncovered “multiple sources of evidence” suggesting that classified documents remained at Mar-a-Lago, the new document says.
When agents conducted a court-ordered search, they found material so sensitive that “even the FBI counterintelligence officers and Justice Department lawyers who conducted the search required additional permission before they were allowed to view certain documents,” it says.
Strikingly, the archive included a photo of color-coded documents spread out on a carpet marked “SECRET” and “TOP SECRET.”
Now, it’s clear from the documents, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Trump or anyone in his inner circle acted criminally to prevent federal agents from obtaining classified documents.
It cited “evidence that government documents were likely hidden and removed from storage (at Trump’s estate) and that efforts were likely made to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
Trump responded to the publication of the photo in a post on his Pravda social network.
“It’s horrifying how the FBI, during the Mar-a-Lago raid, randomly scattered documents all over the floor (maybe pretending I did it!), And then started photographing them for everyone to see.” He wrote.
“Significantly harms” public interests
In the raid, documents on Tuesday said, agents recovered more than 100 classified documents, bringing the total number of classified documents seized from the former president to more than 300.
Trump, who is mulling another attempt to run for the White House in 2024, accused the Justice Department under Democratic President Joe Biden of a vendetta against him and said the judge “should never have allowed my home to be broken into.”
The former president sued to have an independent party or “special master” be appointed to check the seized files for material protected by personal privilege.
The government argues that the appointment of a special master, potentially blocking investigators’ access to seized documents, “would cause significant damage to important state interests, including national security interests.”
In their response on Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers again pushed for the appointment of a special master.
“Ensuring attorney (Trump) access to seized materials, sharing a factual (detailed) inventory, conducting independent attorney and client privilege assessments, and determining executive privilege are all duties best served by appointing a dedicated master,” they wrote.
The search warrant in Mar-a-Lago, personally authorized by Attorney General Merrick Garland, was based on suspicions of violating the US Espionage Act for illegal possession of confidential defense documents, on suspicion of obstruction and illegal destruction of government documents. .
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the actions described in the memo were “grossly reckless” and indicative of “deliberate” deception.
In addition to investigations in New York into his business practices, Trump faces legal scrutiny for his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and for his supporters’ attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for the second time after the Capitol riot – he was charged with inciting a rebellion – but the Senate acquitted him.