Federal agents searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after developing evidence that government records were “likely concealed and removed” in defiance of a grand jury subpoena, according to Department of Justice (DOJ) court documents filed late Tuesday evening.
The filing details the chronology of federal officials’ monthslong attempt to recover presidential records and classified documents from Trump’s Florida home, casting doubt on the former president’s team’s claims that a “diligent search” was conducted and all documents requested by the subpoena were returned.
Trump has claimed the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago was unnecessary since he was cooperating with the National Archives and federal officials. But the new filing is the most detailed account from DOJ yet contesting Trump’s claims of cooperation.
“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,” DOJ wrote in its filing.
Trump’s representative on June 3 certified that the former president’s team had returned all responsive documents to the subpoena asking for classified documents still in his possession, the court filing states.
But DOJ said the FBI seized 33 boxes containing more than 100 classified records when it searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, including classified documents found in desks in Trump’s office. Trump’s team had said all presidential records taken from the White House were stored in the storage room.
DOJ also included in its a filing a photo that shows some of the seized documents, including markings on some that indicate the documents were top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information.
Some FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys that reviewed the seized documents had to receive additional clearances to view the materials, according to the filing.
“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” DOJ wrote.
The filing marks DOJ’s response to Trump’s request that the court appoint a special master to review documents seized by federal agents in the search. Trump has claimed the documents are covered by attorney-client and executive privileges.
DOJ said it opposed such a move, arguing Trump has not asserted executive privilege, and even if he did, he could not lawfully do so.
A filter team at the department has already reviewed the seized materials and separated out those protected by attorney-client privilege, and investigators have already reviewed all the remaining documents Trump would potentially assert executive privilege over, according to the filing.
“It would do little or nothing to protect any legitimate interests that plaintiff may have while impeding the government’s ongoing criminal investigation, as well as the Intelligence Community’s review of potential risks to national security that may have resulted from the improper storage of the seized materials,” DOJ said of Trump’s request.