Trump team says sensitive info ‘should have never been cause for alarm’ in latest filing

Former President Trump’s legal team is arguing that the sensitive information contained in classified documents recovered from his Florida home “should have never been cause for alarm” in its latest filing arguing for a special master to review the documents. 

The claim came in a Wednesday night filing as Trump asks the court to appoint a third party to review evidence, which would pause the investigation into his mishandling of government records.

The filing came after the Justice Department late Tuesday responded to Trump’s request, arguing a special master “would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”

Trump’s team argued Wednesday that the discovery of sensitive information in a previous batch of records should not have triggered the search of Mar-a-Lago in the first place, doubling down on his long-standing claim that executive privilege justifies keeping large tranches of classified documents in his personal residence.

“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,” the filing says. 

“But this ‘discovery’ was to be fully anticipated given the very nature of Presidential records. Simply put, the notion that Presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been cause for alarm,” the filing adds.

Trump’s claim that authorities were wrong to be alarmed by his possession of classified materials comes as the Department of Justice (DOJ) noted in numerous filings that Trump had in his home some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, including secrets gained from “clandestine human sources,” information prohibited from being shared with foreign governments and information obtained by monitoring “foreign communications signals.”

And in its late Tuesday filing, the DOJ offered its most forceful rejection of Trump’s claims to any of the documents he kept stored in his home.

“Any Presidential records seized pursuant to the search warrant belong to the United States, not to the former President,” the DOJ wrote.

“Plaintiff’s Motion, in fact, asserts that ‘the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022 … were created during his term as President.’ These are precisely the types of documents that likely constitute Presidential records,” the DOJ added.  

Trump’s reply also argues that the National Archives “simply ignored” the Presidential Records Act, which required the preservation and transfer of documents at the end of Trump’s presidential term, and jumped right to a criminal investigation “just weeks after President Trump voluntarily complied” with its request for records. 

Absent from the filing is any backing for Trump’s earlier claims that he declassified the hundreds of intelligence records stored at his home.

The failure to reference that explanation, largely referenced by Trump himself on his social media channel, comes after the Justice Department in its own filing noted that in its months of dealings with Trump’s legal team to secure return of the records, the legal team never claimed the documents had been declassified.

The brief was panned by some legal scholars on social media who argued the filing failed to connect the dots between Trump’s displeasure over the search of his home and the role a special master plays.

“Trump lawyers trash basic first-year law school 4th Amendment doctrines in trying to attack search warrant in their request for a Special Master,” Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor wrote on Twitter.

A special master is often used to screen evidence to help ensure any documents that might be protected by attorney-client privilege are not shared with prosecutors.

But the DOJ argued that role has already been fulfilled by its own filter team composed of staff not assigned to the case — a common protocol also used to help ensure any personal property swept up in a search is returned to the owner.

The DOJ argued Tuesday that Trump’s request for a special master is too little too late, as its own team had already done the required reviews.

“Typically, parties who seek the appointment of a special master following the execution of a search warrant make such requests immediately,” it wrote in its brief, noting that Trump’s team waited two weeks to make such a motion.

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