Attorneys for former President Donald Trump filed court documents Monday asking a federal judge to reject the Justice Department’s request to continue its review of classified materials seized last month from Mar-a-Lago.
In the filing, Mr. Trump’s attorneys argue that some of the documents marked classified may not be secretive and that his Florida residence is secure.
“In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, the government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th President of his own presidential and personal records,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote. They said the Justice Department prosecutors are the ones who deemed the seized materials as “classified records.”
The attorneys also fired back against the Justice Department’s claims that Mr. Trump’s storage of the documents resulted in a national security risk, doubling down on their claim that the materials could not be accessed by U.S. adversaries.
They argue that Mar-a-Lago is a “secure, controlled access compound utilized regularly to conduct the official business of the United States during the Trump presidency.” They said the residence is monitored by the Secret Service and that the documents were stored in a locked room.
“The government generally points to the alleged urgent need to conduct a risk assessment of possible unauthorized disclosure of purported ‘classified records.’ But there is no indication any purported ‘classified records’ were disclosed to anyone,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote.
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The Trump legal team insisted that the former president “enjoys absolute authority” to declassify information, arguing that there is “no legitimate contention” that a president’s declassification of documents “requires approval of bureaucratic components.”
The filing was in response to the Justice Department’s request that U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon temporarily suspend parts of her Labor Day ruling in which she agreed to appoint a special master to review the thousands of documents seized by the FBI during the Aug. 8 raid of Mr. Trump’s residence.
In her ruling, Judge Cannon ordered the Justice Department to halt its use of seized documents for its investigation. However, she did allow the intelligence community’s assessment of potential damage caused by the alleged mishandling of sensitive government secrets to continue.
The Justice Department has argued that the criminal investigation into Mr. Trump is intertwined with the intelligence community’s review and had to be paused. It has also vowed to appeal Judge Cannon’s ruling to a higher court if she doesn’t allow the intelligence review to continue.
Although the Justice Department and Mr. Trump are still tangling over who should be named a special master, the former president’s lawyers repeated their desire for a third-party appointee to review the seized records.
“President Trump (and, by extension, a requested special master) cannot be denied access to those documents,” they wrote Monday.