Trump’s Lawyers Make Case for a Special Master to Inspect Documents

Former President Donald Trump had his legal team ask a federal judge this week to stop the FBI’s review of documents that were taken from his Florida home at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s lawyers want the process halted until a neutral special master can be appointed to inspect the records. 

This request was included in a federal lawsuit which is the first official filing from Trump’s legal team in the weeks since the search on August 8. This suit takes a broad swing at the FBI investigation of discovering classified records in Trump’s home. This filing also gives a heads up on what argument will be used by Trump’s lawyers as the investigation continues. 

The New York Times just reported that the government has taken more than 300 documents that were marked classified from the residence. Included in this number are more than 150 retrieved by the National Archives in January. It was this seizure that became a trigger for the criminal investigation.

Trump’s lawsuit paints a picture of the raid by the FBI as a “shockingly aggressive move.” It portrays the warrant as too broad and maintains that former President Trump is entitled to a more detailed description of the documents seized from his home. The foundation of the lawsuit is a history of being treated “unfairly” by the FBI and the Department of Justice. 

“Law enforcement is a shield that protects America. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes. Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid,” Trump lawyers wrote in the suit. 

Lawyers for Former President Trump Continue to Challenge FBI Raid

Former President Trump said earlier that all the documents were previously declassified, but he has not provided evidence that supports that claim. He continues to maintain that the records were “illegally seized from my home.” 

The Justice Department responded to the lawsuit with a very matter-of-fact three-sentence statement. It pointed out that the search had been authorized by a federal judge when the FBI presented probable cause that there was a crime committed. 

Trump desires that a special master would be appointed who is not connected to the case and would inspect the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. The person would also be able to set aside those that are covered by executive privilege, the law that permits presidents to withhold communications from the public. 

Special masters have been used in other spotlighted cases involving those close to Trump including Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen. The special master role was filled by a former judge. 

“This matter has captured the attention of the American public. Merely ‘adequate’ safeguards are not acceptable when the matter at hand involves not only the constitutional rights of President Trump, but also the presumption of executive privilege,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

According to the lawsuit the documents that were created while Trump was in office are “presumptively privileged.” But the Supreme Court has never decided a case on whether a former president can assert executive privilege over documents.

The high court declined Trump’s plea to block records held by the National Archives from being turned over to the Jan. 6 committee. And they said that his request would have been denied even if he was in office. 

Trump’s lawyers have made it clear that their client was “fully cooperative” with investigators, Trump told the FBI and Justice Department officials during a June visit to Mar-a-Lago, “Whatever you need, just let us know.”

But after the meeting at Mar-a-Lago in June, investigators interviewed another witness who told them that there possibly were more classified documents still in the residence, according to a person familiar with the probe.

The matter of a special master is now in the hands of the court. The question is, will the judgment be fair.