The filing traces the extraordinary saga of government officials’ repeated efforts to recover sensitive national security papers from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club, centered on a storage room where prosecutors came to suspect that “government records were likely concealed and removed … and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
Among the most incriminating details in the government filing is a photograph, showing a number of files labeled “Top Secret” with bright red or yellow cover sheets, spread out over a carpet. Those files were found inside a container in Trump’s office, according to the court filing. A close examination of one of the cover sheets in the photo shows a marking for “HCS,” a government acronym for systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources.
The 36-page filing also reveals, for the first time, the text of a written assurance given to the Justice Department by Trump’s “custodian of records” on June 3. It says Trump’s team had done a thorough search for any classified material in response to a subpoena and had turned over any relevant documents.
The filing says Trump’s lawyer told Justice Department officials that all White House records that remained at Mar-a-Lago nearly 17 months after Trump left office were contained in the storage room, and that all boxes in the room had been searched.
Yet when FBI agents raided the Trump property in August, they found more than 100 additional classified papers, which, prosecutors wrote, “calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”
In parts of the filing, using only their job descriptions, prosecutors paint Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, and custodian of records, Christina Bobb, as so uncooperative as to lead agents to suspect the Trump team might be obstructing the investigation.
The filing, for instance, says that when FBI agents and Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, met with Trump’s two representatives in early June, “the former President’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”
But their motion centered on the assertion that much of the seized material contained presidential communications and was therefore shielded by executive privilege. Executive privilege is usually invoked to shield communications from Congress or the courts, not another department of the executive government such as the Justice Department.
In their filing Tuesday night, federal prosecutors pushed back on what they called “the wide-ranging meritless accusations leveled against the government” by Trump’s lawyers. The request for a special master was pointless, the government reasoned, because its review of the documents was already complete. The judge should reject Trump’s demands to get the documents back “because those records do not belong to him,” but are rather the property of the government, the filing said.
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 determination on Plaintiff’s Motion.”
The search is part of a criminal investigation into whether Trump and his aides took secret government papers and did not return all of them, despite demands from senior officials, and whether anyone obstructed government efforts to recover all of the classified material.
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