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Trump’s Lawyers Renew Push for Special Master in Documents Inquiry

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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team on Wednesday aggressively renewed its push for an independent arbiter to review documents the F.B.I. seized in its Aug. 8 search of his Florida residence, telling a federal judge that he had merely possessed “his own presidential records.”

In an 18-page filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers suggested that by undertaking what they described as an “unprecedented, unnecessary and legally unsupported raid” on Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and club in Palm Beach, Fla., the Justice Department was “criminalizing a former president’s possession of private and presidential records in a secure setting.”

Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee hearing the request, signaled over the weekend that she was inclined to appoint an out of doors expert, generally known as a special master, within the case, but desired to first hear from the Justice Department, which objected to Mr. Trump’s request in a lengthy filing Tuesday night.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Federal District Court in West Palm Beach.

The characterization by Mr. Trump’s legal team that presidential documents from the Trump administration were his own records clashed with the Presidential Records Act of 1978. It makes clear that the federal government, not a president or former president, owns White House files generated during his time in office. (If Mr. Trump also had files generated by other agencies and departments, those have never been understood to be owned by presidents.)

The Trump Investigations

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The Trump Investigations

Quite a few inquiries. Since former President Donald J. Trump left office, he has been facing several civil and criminal investigations into his business dealings and political activities. Here’s a take a look at some notable cases:

The Trump Investigations

Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a comprehensive narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who’re conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.

The Trump Investigations

Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. This case could pose probably the most immediate legal peril for the previous president and his associates.

The Trump Investigations

Recent York State civil inquiry. Letitia James, the Recent York attorney general, has been conducting a civil investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business. The case is concentrated on whether Mr. Trump’s statements concerning the value of his assets were a part of a pattern of fraud or were simply Trumpian showmanship.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement mechanism, suggesting that the federal government had no basis to seize the files Mr. Trump took to Mar-a-Lago and didn’t return even after repeated requests by the National Archives and a subpoena from the Justice Department.

“The law exhorts a former president to interface with the archivist to make sure the preservation of presidential records, but it surely doesn’t oblige the previous president to take any particular steps with respect to those records,” the lawyers wrote.

The transient brushed aside the incontrovertible fact that a magistrate judge who issued the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago had done so not on the idea of the Presidential Records Act, but on other laws against concealing government records. Those include the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention of doubtless dangerous and closely held national-security secrets.

While the Espionage Act was written before the classification system was established and doesn’t seek advice from the classification status of such information, Mr. Trump has claimed that he had a standing order to declassify any documents he took to his residence.

No meaningful evidence has emerged to suggest that any such order existed, and the federal government’s filing on Tuesday noted that Mr. Trump’s lawyers never made such an assertion before the search. That included when Mr. Trump’s lawyers personally turned over sensitive documents in response to a subpoena in June.

Within the special master case, including in Wednesday’s filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers again stopped wanting claiming that he had declassified all of the documents; lying in court filings can result in skilled sanctions for lawyers. Indeed, Mr. Trump’s lawyers as a substitute said they thought “that it might be appropriate for the special master to own a top secret” clearance.

Three of Mr. Trump’s lawyers — Lindsey Halligan, James Trusty and M. Evan Corcoran — were listed on the filing. The lawyer Mr. Trump hired this week, Christopher M. Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, was not.

Mr. Trump’s filing also made more specific arguments for appointing a special master regardless that his request was so belated that the F.B.I. had already reviewed all of the documents it seized from Mar-a-Lago. The arguments included proposals for rules that may govern the work of the special master.

Key developments within the inquiries into the previous president and his allies.

While previous filings had argued only that the special master could screen anything subject to executive privilege — confidential internal deliberations in the manager branch — the brand new filing also said material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege must also be kept from investigators. (The F.B.I. has said it’s already doing so.)

But just because the Justice Department used its transient on Tuesday to transcend the narrow issue of a special master to reveal recent details about Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive documents, the previous president’s own filing at times seemed geared as much at public relations as legal arguments.

The filing got here on the identical day Mr. Trump lashed out a couple of photograph the Justice Department included in its submission, an evidentiary photo the F.B.I. had taken of several folders labeled “Top Secret” and “Secret,” arrayed on a carpet. The bureau was logging what was inside one in every of the boxes a contained, labeled Box 2A, before taking it out of Mr. Trump’s personal office at Mar-a-Lago, where the bureau had found it.

Apparently stung by the chance that folks can be confused into pondering he had “sloppily” kept the files on the ground, Mr. Trump declared that that they had as a substitute been kept in “cartons.”

In its filing, the Justice Department had detailed the assorted ways in which Mr. Trump and his lawyers stymied attempts by the federal government to retrieve the documents he had taken with him to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House in January 2021.

Starting in May 2021, the National Archives, later joined by federal prosecutors, repeatedly sought to get well the missing records, including some marked as highly classified. But while Mr. Trump permitted the archives to retrieve 15 boxes in January after eight months of entreaties, and while his representatives returned more in June after a grand jury subpoena while claiming there have been none left, he was still holding onto more.

In denouncing the Justice Department for resorting to searching his residence to retrieve additional documents, Mr. Trump’s lawyers blamed the federal government. The National Archives, they said, as a substitute “must have simply followed up with” Mr. Trump “in a good-faith effort to secure the recovery of the presidential records.”

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