National Security

Trump sues to stall FBI probe, asks for ‘special master’ to review Mar-a-Lago documents

Former President Trump is seeking to temporarily block the FBI from reviewing the classified materials seized from his home, asking the court to appoint a “special master” in the interim to help them review the evidence collected as they executed a search warrant.

In a 21-page motion that echoes much of the former president’s claims that the search was politically motivated, Trump’s attorneys ask for outside oversight to ensure the materials seized from his home do not include items they argue could be protected by executive privilege.

The suit asks for the court to enjoin the FBI from reviewing the evidence it has collected until a special master is appointed.

“It is unreasonable to allow the prosecutorial team to review them without meaningful safeguards,” Trump’s attorneys write.

“Short of returning the seized items to the movant, only a neutral review by a special master can protect the ‘great public interest’ in preserving ‘the confidentiality of conversations that take place in the president’s performance of his official duties.’ ”

The filing is the first major legal action from Trump following the Aug. 8 search of his home indicating he may have violated the Espionage Act by mishandling documents. 

Other statutes listed on the warrant bar concealing, removing and mutilating government documents while the other prohibits similar actions when done “with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence [an] investigation.” 

The suit comes after Trump on Friday floated that he would pursue legal action to protect his Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable searches and seizures.

The motion, filed in Florida, makes other requests, including asking the Justice Department to release a more detailed inventory of the items seized on Trump’s property and to return items taken that are deemed outside the scope of the warrant.

Special masters are rare in the context of the execution of a search warrant and are usually involved in cases that have technical components, like in water disputes, or to ensure a court’s orders are carried out, such as in the dispensation of funds to 9/11 victims.

The Justice Department has already been using a “filter team” to go through the 11 different sets of classified materials they seized while searching the home, a common practice in investigations designed to ensure prosecutors don’t see materials that should not have been swept up in the search.

It was that team that noted various passports for Trump were taken during the search and arranged for their return. Trump noted the documents in a statement sent out shortly after filing the suit that refers to the “Break-In of Mar-a-Lago.”

One section of the lawsuit is also devoted to the idea that DOJ and the FBI have “long treated President Donald J. Trump unfairly.”

The filing confirms that Trump was previously subpoenaed for documents kept on his property with a May 11 order to compel the documents. It also notes a second June 22 subpoena from DOJ for Mar-a-Lago security footage.

Trump’s attorneys contend this means he was “fully cooperative” and complain that the Justice Department “has refused to provide President Trump with any reason for the unprecedented, general search of his home.”

DOJ did not respond to request for comment.

But observers say the dual subpoenas as well as a January visit to Trump’s home to retrieve documents indicate the Justice Department made multiple attempts to get documents without taking such measures. 

In announcing that the Justice Department would seek to release the warrant Attorney General Merrick Garland said that “where possible” prosecutors seek “less intrusive means.”

The filing does not address why Trump was storing so many records at his home, a possible violation of the Presidential Records Act. Such documents are typically managed by the National Archives.

The filing from Trump repeatedly refers to him as the “clear frontrunner” on the 2024 election, and compares the DOJ probe to that of the House’s Jan. 6 committee in justifying its call for releasing a more detailed account of the documents seized.

“The receipt for property largely fails to identify seized documents with particularity, but it does refer to the seizure of an item labeled Executive Grant of Clemency re: Roger Jason Stone Jr.,” the document notes.

“Aside from demonstrating that this was an unlawful general search, it also suggests that DOJ simply wanted the camel’s nose under the tent so they could rummage for either politically helpful documents or support other efforts to thwart President Trump from running again, such as the Jan. 6 investigation.”

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Espionage Act Justice Department Lawsuit Mar-a-Lago Trump

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