Former President Trump’s lawyers said Wednesday that the Justice Department’s “unchecked investigators” can’t be trusted to conduct a fair investigation.
The jab at the federal prosecutors was part of Mr. Trump’s response to the DOJ’s argument against the request of an independent “special master” to review boxes of classified documents and other materials the FBI seized from Mr. Trump’s Florida.
“Left unchecked the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for [Mr. Trump] to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators,” attorneys for Mr. Trump wrote in a court filing.
In the filing, Mr. Trump’s legal team asked a federal judge to appoint an outside expert to examine the documents taken from his residence in the Aug. 8 raid and return to him anything covered by attorney-client privilege.
An FBI review team has already looked over the documents and concluded a “limited” number of the materials are protected by privilege. However, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said someone must oversee the FBI team’s work because the Justice Department can’t be trusted.
“A fair-minded DOJ that truly embraced the highest ethical standards would, and should agree,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote.
They urged the court to appoint a special master to double-check the privilege review, saying oversight is needed.
“The United States Attorney’s Office has filed an extraordinary document with this Court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating its unjustified pursuit of criminalizing a former President’s possession of personal and Presidential records in a secure setting,” he said.
The filing comes in response to a Justice Department motion filed late Tuesday arguing that Mr. Trump’s request for a special master was a delay-tactic to stall their criminal probe into the former president.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Trump is under criminal investigation for violations of the Espionage Act and other federal crimes related to the mishandling or removal of classified government documents.
The DOJ’s lawyers argued that time is of the essence because Mr. Trump had likely “concealed and removed” classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in violation of a grand jury subpoena.
The Justice Department said Mr. Trump was not cooperative with the subpoena and acted to obstruct the investigation into whether he mishandled classified government documents.
“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” DOJ lawyers wrote.
A photograph of classified documents piled up on the floor of Mar-A-Lago was included with the filing. At least five sets of papers were laid strewn across a carpet with some specifically marked “Top Secret/SCI,” a reference to sensitive compartmented information. The two designations are the federal government’s highest classification level.
Mr. Trump has insisted he declassified the documents and suggested that the FBI staged the photo to frame him.
Attorneys for Mr. Trump certified on June 3 that he had returned all of the documents covered under the subpoena, which sought all classified materials remaining at Mar-a-Lago.
FBI agents seized more than 33 boxes containing 187 classified materials during the Aug. 8 search, including classified documents stored in desks in Mr. Trump’s office, according to the Justice Department
Mr. Trump’s lawyers had said all presidential records sent to Mar-a-Lago from the White House during the waning days of his administration were secured in a storage room.
“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” the Justice Department attorneys wrote.