Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, on August 6, 2022.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
Lawyers for the former president Donald Trump on Monday, he urged a federal judge to reject the Justice Department’s effort to do so resumes document review seized at Trump’s home while the agency appeals the judge’s ruling to appoint a special master when.
Judge Aileen Cannon’s order authorizing the appointment of a special master — an independent third party to examine seized records of personal effects and possibly privileged material — “is a reasonable preliminary step toward restoring order out of chaos,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
“Therefore, the government should not be allowed to bypass due process and proceed directly to a foregone conclusion,” they argued in the U.S. District Court in South Florida.
The FBI seized thousands of government records when it raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 8. Many of these documents were classified, including dozens of empty folders when the FBI rounded them up.
The Justice Department argued that the special commander was unnecessary because a team of agency officials had already completed a document review to exclude material from prosecutors protected by attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department also argued that the appointment of a special commander could harm the government’s national security interests in criminal investigations.
Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, ordered a special commander last week to review the records before turning them over to federal prosecutors. Her order also temporarily blocked the Justice Department’s further review of classified documents.
The Justice Department appealed Cannon’s decision Thursday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which has appellate jurisdiction over Florida district court cases.
That same day, the government also asked Cannon to stay its order ordering the review of classified documents while the appeal was pending.
On Friday, Trump and the Justice Department each put forward two nominees to serve as the special commander, expressing disagreement over the scope of the review of seized records. The Justice Department wants the special commander to send all documents about alleged executive privilege to the National Archives and Records Administration, while Trump’s lawyers say there is no need for the special commander to do so.
In a separate filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers said they oppose the proposed Justice Department special selections. They asked the judge for permission to share the reasons for their opposition privately, saying that “it is more respectful of candidates of either party not to provide the public with materials of opposition that are likely to be widely disseminated.”
Trump has publicly stated that he declassified the records that were found at Mar-a-Lago. His lawyers would not directly repeat that claim in Monday’s filing, but say the Justice Department is wrong to assume that “if a document is classified, it remains classified regardless of any actions taken during President Trump’s tenure.”
The government “has not demonstrated that these records remain classified,” the former president’s lawyers wrote.
Some former Justice Department officials and legal experts criticized Cannon’s order authorizing the special commander. Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, said last week that he considered the decision “deeply flawed in many ways” and hoped the Justice Department would appeal it.