DOJ Publicly Debunks Trump Claims About Stolen Classified Docs

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In a new court filing from the dispute over Donald Trump’s request for the selection of a so-called special master to take over some of the process of dealing with documents recently seized from his southern Florida property known as Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department demolished a series of Trump’s arguments.

The seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago was conducted as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the handling of government records from the Trump administration. Evidence reveals that hundreds of sensitive documents were taken to Mar-a-Lago as Trump left office, and at what an FBI affidavit used amid the Justice Department seeking a search warrant characterized as an insufficiently secured property, the range of materials found was startling. Information related to gathering intelligence from covert human sources was discovered in a box in Trump’s office on the premises of his southern Florida property, the new filing indicates. Releasing the contents of such documents could put sources in danger. Prior to the raid, authorities were assured remaining records were only held in a particular storage area at Mar-a-Lago and that all materials marked as classified that were in that storage area were returned to federal authorities, as the new filing outlines.

The arguments newly filed in court by the Justice Department also undercut any claims of executive privilege or that the disputed documents were declassified. (If the documents were formally declassified, the decision — however reckless — wouldn’t even necessarily erase any potential legal liability on Trump’s part.) At a June meeting at Mar-a-Lago previously covered in news reports, where high-ranking Justice Department officials met with members of Trump’s team including lawyers Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, “neither counsel nor the custodian asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege,” according to the new filing. “Custodian” refers to Bobb, who filled a custodial role covering documents held by Trump.

The new filing also provides more details about suspected obstruction. Criminal obstruction of a government investigation in certain forms is prohibited by one of the laws authorities cited in pursuing a search warrant. “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” as the new filing explains. “This included evidence indicating that boxes formerly in the Storage Room were not returned prior to counsel’s review.” “Counsel” seemingly indicates Corcoran, who evidently (falsely) insisted to Justice Department personnel during the June gathering all remaining White House records were in the storage room and that a comprehensive search for documents identified as classified was conducted.

The filing additionally reveals that personnel from the Justice Department weren’t permitted by Corcoran and Bobb to personally look inside any of the boxes in the disputed Mar-a-Lago storage area while at the property in early June. Alongside other condemning details, the filing also notes that Trump’s team handled documents provided during the June meeting in a manner that suggested an awareness of their sensitive status. Trump’s legal counsel (seemingly meaning Corcoran) “handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.” The June hand-off was the second transfer of government records back to federal authorities after the National Archives reclaimed over a dozen boxes in January.