February 22, 2024
The Justice Department responded to arguments from former President Donald Trump asking for an independent review of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) Tuesday filed its response opposing the appointment of a “special master” to review documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. 

The department argued in the filing that Trump’s request for a special master “fails for multiple, independent reasons,” saying it’s both “unnecessary” and would “harm national security interests.”

The filing said Trump “lacks standing” for a special master because the records in question belong to the United States, not him. 

It said Trump won’t suffer any injury without an injunction “and the harms to the government and the public would far outweigh any benefit” to him. 

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TELLS JUDGE IT ALREADY REVIEWED TRUMP DOCUMENTS

Former President Donald Trump is asking a federal court to appoint a "special master" to conduct an independent review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate by the Justice Department earlier this month. 

Former President Donald Trump is asking a federal court to appoint a “special master” to conduct an independent review of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate by the Justice Department earlier this month.  (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The filing added that any materials that could be subject to attorney-client privilege were already separated by the government’s filter team. 

“Furthermore, appointment of a special master would impede the government’s ongoing criminal investigation and—if the special master were tasked with reviewing classified documents—would impede the Intelligence Community from conducting its ongoing review of the national security risk that improper storage of these highly sensitive materials may have caused and from identifying measures to rectify or mitigate any damage that improper storage caused,” the filing said. “Lastly, this case does not involve any of the types of circumstances that have warranted appointment of a special master to review materials potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.” 

FBI agents raided Trump’s property earlier this month as part of an investigation into whether Trump illegally possessed documents relating to national security at his private residence. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he approved the raid himself and that the DOJ did “not take such a decision likely.” Trump has attacked the raid as politically motivated, which was the basis for his request of an independent review, via a “special master,” of the documents the FBI took from his home. 

“Politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice. President Donald J. Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary and in the 2024 General Election, should he decide to run,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their request last week. “Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes.”

The Justice Department’s Tuesday filing comes after the Florida federal judge overseeing the case, Aileen M. Cannon, Saturday indicated her “preliminary intent” to grant Trump’s request for a special master. It also comes before a scheduled Thursday hearing on Trump’s motion. 

JUDGE ANNOUNCES ‘PRELIMINARY INTENT TO APPOINT A SPECIAL MASTER’ TO REVIEW TRUMP RECORDS SEIZED BY FBI

Cannon notably has not yet granted another request from Trump – that she block the government from reviewing the materials it has seized from Trump’s estate until a special master is appointed. That means the DOJ is able to continue to review the documents in the meantime, which it said it is doing in a separate filing Monday. 

The government initiated the search in response to what it believed to be a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — gathering, transmitting or losing defense information; 18 USC 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation; and 18 USC 1519 — destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted by in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search by the FBI of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The Justice Department says it has uncovered efforts to obstruct its investigation into the discovery of classified records at former President Donald Trump's Florida estate. (Department of Justice via AP)

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted by in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search by the FBI of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The Justice Department says it has uncovered efforts to obstruct its investigation into the discovery of classified records at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate. (Department of Justice via AP)

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Trump and his lawyers, meanwhile, say that the documents were brought to his home while he was the president and that he ordered them declassified under broad authority he claims is given to the president. 

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.  

Fox News’ Brooke Singman, David Spunt, Ronn Blitzer and Jake Gibson contributed to this report,