A recent court filing from the Justice Department amid the ongoing review by a court-appointed expert known as a special master of documents seized in the FBI’s August raid of Mar-a-Lago reveals evidence of potentially further misconduct by Trump.
In short, the filing indicates materials from Trump’s presidency that were at least originally placed under federal protections for sensitive information were mixed with documents clearly from the time after Donald left office. As summarized in The Guardian, this juxtaposition suggests specific knowledge and intent on the former president’s part in his retention after exiting the White House of protected materials, and intent could be relevant in proving a criminal case, although it’s unclear how the investigation will eventually turn out.
The raid at Trump’s southern Florida property Mar-a-Lago was connected to the ongoing criminal investigation at the Justice Department into the former president harboring numerous documents of various classification levels, including some of the most guarded information in the U.S. government. The special master is dealing with whether numerous documents seized from Mar-a-Lago — excluding those marked classified — can be used in the investigation.
The unclassified documents over which Trump may seek to assert privileges (a doc-by-doc review by the former president’s team has apparently been ongoing) could provide context clues for how the classified materials were handled. The classification status of the latter documents isn’t critical to their investigative relevance. There is also the question of the foundational national security concerns potentially posed by the possible disclosure of the contents of the materials — and there is also apparently no conclusive evidence that Trump actually took declassifying action when he was still president and had the legally recognized power to do so, although Donald has claimed as much (outside the courtroom).
The recent government filing in the special master’s review groups the sheets indicating classification and materials assembled in Donald’s post-presidency into the same “document.” “This document is a compilation that includes three documents that post-date Plaintiff’s term in office and two classified cover sheets, one SECRET and the other CONFIDENTIAL. Because Plaintiff can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as President, the entire mixed document is a Presidential record,” the filing says. For the documents at issue in the special master’s review, federal authorities are apparently contesting all of Trump’s claims of executive privilege. Separately, the department has also been pursuing a complete shutdown of the special master’s work.
“Besides the classified cover sheets, which were inserted by the FBI in lieu of the actual documents, none of the remaining communications in the document are confidential presidential communications that might be subject to a claim of executive privilege,” that new Justice Department filing adds. “Three communications are from a book author, a religious leader, and a pollster. The first two cannot be characterized as presidential advisers and all three are either dated or by content occurred after Plaintiff’s administration ended.” Among the disputes in the special master’s review are both whether individual documents are Presidential records and whether they are covered by some privilege claim.