Justice Department says Trump team may have hidden and moved classified documents

Former President Donald Trump and his advisers have repeatedly failed to turn over highly classified government documents, even after receiving a subpoena and promising a ‘diligent search’ had been conducted, leading to a raid from the FBI at his home in Florida that found more than 100 other classified items, according to a blistering court case filed by federal prosecutors Tuesday night.

The filing traces the extraordinary saga of repeated efforts by government officials to recover sensitive national security documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club, centered around a storage room where prosecutors came to suspect that “government records were likely covered up and suppressed…and that efforts were likely made to obstruct the government investigation.

Officers also came to doubt claims by Trump’s team that the storage room was the only place such documents could be found.

When agents conducted their court-ordered search on August 8, they found documents so sensitive that “even FBI counterintelligence staff and DOJ attorneys conducting the review demanded additional clearances before proceeding. ‘be allowed to review certain documents,’ the filing said.

Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Documents: A Timeline

Among the most incriminating detail in the government file is a photograph, showing a number of files labeled “Top Secret” with bright red or yellow cover pages, spread out on a mat. Those files were found in a container in Trump’s office, according to the court filing. A close look at one of the photo’s covers shows a mark for “HCS,” a government acronym for systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources.

The 36-page dossier also reveals, for the first time, the text of a written assurance given to the Justice Department by Trump’s “keeper of the records.” June 3. It says Trump’s team conducted a thorough search for any classified documents in response to a subpoena and turned over all relevant documents.

Trump and his officials turned over 38 classified documents to the Justice Department that day, according to the filing, in addition to 184 others that were discovered in boxes sent to the National Archives earlier in the year.

The filing indicates that Trump’s attorney told justice officials that all White House files remaining at Mar-a-Lago nearly 17 months after Trump left were contained in the storage room and that all the boxes in the room had been searched.

Yet when FBI agents raided the Trump property in August, they found more than 100 additional classified documents, which prosecutors say “seriously call into question the statements made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter. ”

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The dossier offers the most detailed account to date of the interactions between Trump’s team and government officials, who over many months grew increasingly desperate to find and contain all of the classified documents hidden in Mar-a-Lac.

In some parts of the file, using only their job descriptions, Prosecutors describe Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, and case custodian, Christina Bobb, as so uncooperative that they led officers to suspect Trump’s team might be obstructing the investigation.

The filing, for example, says that when FBI agents and Jay Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence and export controls section at the Justice Department, met with the two Trump officials in early June, “the The former president’s lawyer explicitly forbade government personnel from opening or peeking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving the government no opportunity to confirm that there were none left. document with classification marks.

Yet earlier this month, Bobb told the Washington Post that attorneys showed the boxes to federal officials, and that Bratt and others spent time going through the material.

Trump made similar statements after the social media raid, saying his attorneys and representatives were “cooperating fully and a very good relationship was established,” and adding that “the government could have had whatever it wanted. , if we had it”.

Trump’s secrets: How an archive dispute led to the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid

The Justice Department filing also targets Trump defenders who have said he declassified material seized while he was still president, or suggested it might somehow fall under executive privilege. At that same June 3 meeting, the filing says “neither the attorney nor the custodian asserted that the former president had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege.”

Tuesday night’s filing comes ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon at the request of Trump’s attorneys to have a special master appointed to review records seized by the FBI.

The Justice Department told the court on Monday that a “screening team” of law enforcement officials had already completed its review of any potentially privileged documents.

Trump’s legal team filed the request for a special master two weeks after the raid, calling the court-approved law enforcement action a “shockingly aggressive,” politically motivated raid and claiming that federal authorities seized documents to which they had no legal right.

But their motion centered on the claim that much of the material seized contained presidential communications and was therefore protected by executive privilege. Executive privilege is usually invoked to protect communications from Congress or the courts, not another department of executive government, such as the Department of Justice.

In their filing Tuesday night, federal prosecutors pushed back against what they called “wide-ranging baseless charges against the government” by Trump’s lawyers. The request for a special master’s degree was unnecessary, the government explained, because their review of the documents had already been completed. The judge is expected to deny Trump’s requests to retrieve the documents “because these records do not belong to him,” but rather are the property of the government, according to the filing.

Trump’s legal team could file a response to the government’s motion on Wednesday.

Although Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump in 2020, said on Saturday that she was inclined to appoint a special master, she also said her order “should not be construed as a final decision on the motion. of the applicant”.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Documents and the ‘Myth’ of Presidential Security Clearance

FBI agents conducting the search took 33 pieces of evidence, most of them boxes, according to the new filing, which indicates that 13 of the boxes contained classified documents, some classified as top secret. Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told lawmakers on Friday that US intelligence analysts would conduct a review of classified documents to determine the potential risk to national security if their contents were released.

According to a partially redacted and unsealed affidavit on Friday, officers who conducted the Mar-a-Lago search were looking for all “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime or other unlawfully possessed items in violation” of three federal statutes. , including part of the Espionage Act prohibiting the collection, transmission or loss of national defense information. The warrant also cites laws on the destruction of documents and the concealment or mutilation of government material.

The search is part of a criminal investigation into whether Trump and his aides took secret government documents and failed to return them all, despite requests from senior officials, and whether anyone obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve all classified documents.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.


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