Trump Team Takes Aim At Records Probe; Calls It ‘Misguided’

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

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A criminal investigation into the presence of top-secret information at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home has “spiraled out of control,” his lawyers said Monday in urging a judge to leave in place a directive that temporarily halted core aspects of the Justice Department’s probe.

The Trump team also referred to the documents that were seized as “purported” classified records, suggesting his lawyers do not concede the Justice Department’s contention that highly sensitive, top-secret documents were found by the FBI in its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago. The lawyers also asserted that there is no evidence any of the records were ever disclosed to anyone, and that at least some of the documents belong to him and not to the Justice Department.

The 21-page filing underscores the significant factual and legal disagreements between lawyers for Trump and the U.S. government as the Justice Department looks to move forward with its criminal investigation into the illegal retention of national defense information at Mar-a-Lago and into the potential obstruction of that probe.

The investigation hit a roadblock last week when U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the Trump team’s request for the appointment of an independent arbiter, also known as a special master, to review the seized records and prohibited for now the department from examining the documents for investigative purposes.

The Justice Department has asked the judge to lift that hold and said it would appeal her ruling to a federal appeals court. The department said its investigation risked being harmed beyond repair if that order was not lifted, noting that confusion about its scope and meaning had already led the intelligence community to pause a separate risk assessment it was doing.

But Trump’s lawyers said in their own motion Monday that the order was a “sensible preliminary step towards restoring order from chaos.” They asked Cannon to leave it in place.

“This investigation of the 45th President of the United States is both unprecedented and misguided,” they wrote. “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.”

In the meantime, both sides on Friday night each proposed different names of candidates who could serve in the role of a special master, though they disagreed on the exact scope of duties the person should have.



  1. “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.”
    That is certainly a unique way to look at clear violations of the Presidential Records Act. Even if none of the documents recovered where classified they are not Trump’s documents to take.

  2. Yup. The 1/6 rioters were just like a “bunch of tourists” walking through the capital and the Trumpkopf theft of classified records is just like forgetting about some “overdue library books”. Its getting even worse now that even his former chassidim like Bill Barr are turning on him and ridiculing the legal arguments being offered by his “counsel”.

  3. The least dramatic way to solve the matter would be for one side (probably Trump at this point) to ask for a declaratory judgement that the papers in question are not classified (either never were classified, or were declassified by him when he was president), and are his property. The would be a civil matter with the burden of proof (but not to the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” falling to the plaintiff). The gamemanship with a criminal justice “investigation” over what at its essence is a civil property dispute benefits Trump and Biden (and appeals to their respective bases) but is annoying to the rest of the country which is much more concerned about things other than the legal status of the archives and Trump’s whining about losing the election.

  4. classified or not classified they belong to the government. If they contain info affecting national security they are restricted regardless of classification status. Whatever, no matter how you slice this those documents must be turned over to the government and the government can engage in whatever criminal investigation they deem necessary. Also, either Trump or his lawyers either committed perjury or obstruction of justice when they lied about returning the documents so someone will be indicted over this stuff sooner or later.

    Bottom line, Trump is 100% responsible for this fiasco as he had the ability to return the documents many times but refused to and choose to lie about it. Anyone who thinks the government is overstepping here, just remember those changes a few years back of “lock her up.” Trump touted strict accountability for handling of such documents with no one being above the law. For some reason he then decided the laws don’t apply to himself. This is a mess of his own making and anyone else doing something like this would find themselves with a one-way ticket to jail. No reason Trump should be above the law.