Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys submitted a counter-filing Wednesday pushing back on the Department of Justice’s argument that a special master is not needed to oversee the department’s review of the documents that were taken during the FBI’s raid last month of his Mar-a-Lago home.
Meanwhile, Trump-era acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell called for whichever DOJ official “staged” a photo of the seized documents to be fired.
In the 19-page filing, the former president’s attorneys call for the appointment of a special master on the basis that the current DOJ can’t be trusted to both provide an honest, unbiased, fair review of the materials, and to also properly determine which documents qualify for attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
“Left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for Movant [Donald Trump] but to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators,” the filing reads.
“While DOJ may have succeeded in taking a partial filter to their rummaged proceeds, the need for a Special Master remains in place. Assuring access by Movant’s counsel to the seized materials, sharing an actual (detailed) inventory, making independent attorney-client privilege assessments, and making executive privilege determinations are all responsibilities that are best served by appointment of a Special Master.”
The filing also addresses the raid itself, arguing in effect that it was wholly unnecessary given Trump’s documented cooperation with both the National Archives and Records Administration and DOJ officials.
“A search warrant has been executed at the home of a President. It was conducted in the midst of the standard give-and-take between former Presidents and NARA regarding Presidential library contents, and with the Movant literally allowing DOJ lawyers and FBI investigators to come to his home and provide security advice,” the filing reads.
Indeed, the filing further argues that the DOJ should have never been alarmed by Trump’s possession of “presidential records” given as he’s a former president.
“The purported justification for the initiation of this criminal probe was the alleged discovery of sensitive information contained within the 15 boxes of Presidential records. But this ‘discovery’ was to be fully anticipated given the very nature of Presidential records,” the filing reads.
“Simply put, the notion that Presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been cause for alarm. Rather, as contemplated under the PRA, NARA should have simply followed up with Movant in a good faith effort to secure the recovery of the Presidential records”
The filing also addresses the now-viral photo released by the DOJ on Tuesday showing “allegedly classified materials, pulled from a container and spread across the floor for dramatic effect.” The filing said the photo was basically unnecessary.
The photo has provoked massive criticism, with conservatives arguing it was effectively staged to make Trump look bad:
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 31, 2022
The staged photo was reckless and unprofessional.
Whoever did it and whoever approved it for release should be fired.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 31, 2022
The Biden FBI staged a dishonest photo with purportedly classified material, with the approval of the Biden DOJ, and submitted it to a court to try to make Trump look bad. These agencies are irredeemably corrupt.
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) August 31, 2022
FBI photo of documents strewn on floor implies Trump behaved carelessly with government documents. In fact it’s the FBI that placed the documents on the floor for a staged photo. You too could be the victim of this kind of dishonest “law enforcement.” Be warned. #FBI
— Betsy McCaughey, PhD (@Betsy_McCaughey) August 31, 2022
Among the critics is Grenell. Speaking on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, he called for whichever official or agent “staged” the photo to be fired.
“Whoever staged this photo and whoever approved it to be released is so unprofessional and so reckless that they should actually be fired. Congress should get involved in this and say, ‘We do not want FBI agents who stage photos and then release them to the public like a spin document.’ This is dangerous,” he said.
The filing concludes by requesting that both the special master, assuming one is assigned, and Trump’s legal team be given copies of all seized materials, in addition to a copy of the search warrant that was used to raid the former president’s home.
“The Government should provide to the special master and to Movant a copy of the Seized Materials, a copy of the Search Warrant, and an unredacted copy of the underlying application materials,” the filing reads.
A decision on whether to appoint a special master will be made Thursday by Trump appointee Judge Aileen Cannon.
“District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida, who was nominated by Trump to the bench in 2020, is handling the former President’s request for the special master, a third-party attorney who would filter out privileged material seized in the search,” according to CNN.
“Cannon has put both Trump’s team and the Justice Department on notice that she had a “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master, though she cautioned that it should not be construed as her final decision on the matter. A hearing is set for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.”
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