Trump legal team asks for ‘special master’ to review Mar-a-Lago evidence and determine if some should be returned

The new lawsuit marks the first legal filing by Trump’s team after FBI agents conducted their search on Aug. 8 and underscores how his legal team has struggled to fuse around a unique strategy. It has been assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump in 2020.

In the lawsuit, Trump alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated and that privileged material may have been seized.

“The Aug. 8 search warrant in Mar-a-Lago was approved by a federal court after the required finding of probable cause. The Department is aware of tonight’s motion. The United States will file its response in court.” a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said. Anthony Coley said in response to the new request.

The ex-president’s lawyers declined to take a stand in court in the immediate aftermath of the search warrant’s execution. They also did not consider whether the search warrant affidavit should be made public before or during a court hearing last week in West Palm Beach, Florida, even though one of his attorneys was present.

Trump also asks in the new filing for a more detailed receipt of what was removed from Mar-a-Lago. That request, if granted, would be in addition to the two receipts the FBI had already provided to Trump’s team describing 33 seized items, and which his attorney signed at the end of the search.

The Justice Department has removed 11 sets of classified documents from Trump’s home, according to documents unsealed by a judge last week. The inventory shows that some of the recovered materials are marked “top secret/SCI”, which is one of the highest levels of classification.
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The department has already indicated that it uses an internal filtering team to review the seized items, to segregate material that may be subject to privilege claims. For example, investigators cited the work of a filtering team as they returned to Trump’s private documents that would not be part of the investigation, such as two expired passports and his diplomatic passport.

The Justice Department said in court documents it believed the evidence it collected at Mar-a-Lago will support its criminal investigation into mishandling federal documents, including national defense equipment, after Trump’s team sent boxes of records to Florida had taken with him when he left office. The investigation also looks at possible obstruction of justice in the investigation.

The Justice Department says it is concerned that further information made public or known by Trump’s team could lead to the manipulation of witnesses or documents. And according to reports from CNN and the New York Times, a Trump lawyer told investigators in writing that no classified documents had been left in Mar-a-Lago after June. The FBI said in an inventory list at the end of its search that additional classified documents had been found.
A federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Florida examined and approved the DOJ’s reasons for the search earlier this month. The judge is now considering whether to disclose more details about the investigation.

The three attorneys who signed the motion are Lindsey Halligan, Jim Trusty and Evan Corcoran. The filing contained a rule about politics that did not affect the administration of justice.

Trump’s team gives its version of the Mar-a-Lago search

On file, Trump’s attorneys put forward the former president’s story of how the search unfolded, the events that preceded it, and its fallout.

The lawsuit also told a report to Attorney General Merrick Garland that Trump’s attorneys telephoned a top Justice Department official on Aug. 11, a few days after the search.

“President Trump wants the attorney general to know that he heard about the raid from people across the country,” Trump’s message read, according to the lawsuit. “If there was one word to describe their mood, it would be ‘angry’. The heat is increasing. The pressure is increasing. Whatever I can do to bring the heat down, to lower the pressure, let it let us know.’

The filing states that at 9:10 a.m. ET on the day of the search, that same top Justice Department official — Jay Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence division of the Justice Department’s national security division — called Trump’s lawyers to ask them. to tell a search warrant was executed in Mar-a-Lago.

“A heated debate ensued as to why the administration did not voluntarily request further exploration of the property given the extensive assistance President Trump had provided to date,” the lawsuit said.

Trump said the search lasted nine hours and involved two dozen FBI agents.

The lawsuit overturned a request by Bratt to turn off Mar-a-Lago’s surveillance cameras — a request that was denied, according to the filing. Bratt also asked for the names of the Trump attorneys who may have arrived at the search. The new lawsuit alleges that Bratt rejected a request from Trump’s team to provide the affidavit.

“After being made aware of this unprecedented event, President Trump’s counsel, among other things, contacted three attorneys in the general area who agreed to attend Mar-a-Lago,” the lawsuit said. “When they arrived, they asked for the opportunity to enter the mansion to observe what the FBI agents were doing, which the government refused to allow.”

June meeting between Trump and FBI detailed

Trump’s legal team also describes, for the first time, their version of what happened in the criminal records investigation prior to the search — giving Trump a lot of freedom himself.

At a June 3 meeting at which investigators visited Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s team stated, “President Trump greeted them in the dining room,” and left the agents with the parting words, “Whatever you need, leave it to us.” know.”

The investigators then inspected a storage facility, which Trump authorized his attorney to do, the filing said.

Five days later, when the Justice Department wrote a letter asking to secure the storage area, “President Trump ordered his staff to put a second lock on the storage room door, and one was added.” writes his team.

Trump’s attorneys also say the former president ordered the acceptance of a Justice Department subpoena in late June seeking CCTV footage of Mar-a-Lago.

It is the first time that these investigative steps have been publicly described in court.

Trump’s revelations could come into play as a federal magistrate judge considers transparency in the case. An attorney for media organizations seeking access to the search warrant affidavit last week argued that the Justice Department’s version of the events that Trump’s team has publicly described should be unsealed.

The Justice Department has said it is investigating attempts to obstruct justice as part of the investigation, and CNN and other media outlets have reported that an attorney for Trump stated that classified material no longer existed at Mar-a-Lago, before the FBI search several sets of documents marked as classified.

In addition to asking for the appointment of a special master, Trump and his attorneys used their lawsuit as a means to re-air some of his longstanding grievances about the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment criticized “biased FBI agents” and criticized key Russia probe figures — including Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Christopher Steele and Bruce Ohr, all of whom played a role in the early FBI investigation into the web of connections between Trump’s campaign in 2016 and the Kremlin.

Trump brought this up in the lawsuit as part of his argument that the Justice Department and the FBI are biased against him and that the search for Mar-a-Lago was intended to derail his political career.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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