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Trump’s lawyers oppose Justice Department request on confidential documents

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Monday opposed a request by the US Justice Department to immediately resume investigation of the contents of classified documents seized by the FBI from his Florida property in an ongoing criminal investigation last month.

In a filing her attorneys also asked US District Judge Eileen Cannon to make those nearly 100 documents — out of more than 11,000 records found in the August 8 search approved by the court — part of a review that an independent arbitrator, A special master who is called will conduct to examine all the materials.

The special master, requested by Trump and approved by the judge last week, could treat the documents as privileged and turn them away from investigators.

Trump is being investigated by the Justice Department for maintaining government records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach after leaving office in January 2021 – some of which were marked as highly classified, including “Top Secret” was also included. The department is also investigating the possible obstacle in the investigation

Trump’s lawyers also told Canon on Monday that they opposed two retired judges – Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith – proposed by the government to serve as special masters. Trump’s team has proposed federal judge Raymond Deere and former Florida deputy attorney general Paul Hauck.

In its filing, the department said it can support Dearie’s appointment, but not Haque. It said Haque did not have “substantial” experience in presiding over federal criminal and civil affairs, including matters involving national security, as did Dearie and two other candidates.

In another development, the Justice Department has charged a Texas woman who was accused by prosecutors of making phone calls against Cannon, which the judge called “marked for murder.” The incident is the latest example of reported threats against various federal officials in recent months.

Cannon previously barred the department from immediately using the records seized in the investigation, a move that would slow down prosecutors’ work and make it harder for them to determine whether additional classified material may be missing.

Trump’s lawyers wrote, “At its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, with the government wrongfully seeking to criminalize the 45th president’s possession of his own president and personal records.”

“Therefore the government should not be allowed to skip the process and proceed directly to the predetermined conclusion,” he said.

Trump’s lawyers in Monday’s filing disputed the department’s claim that about 100 documents at issue are in fact classified, and they reminded Cannon that a president generally has broad powers to declassify records. He stopped suggesting that Trump had made the documents public, a claim he has made on social media but not in court filings.

Trump’s lawyers wrote, “There is still disagreement over the status of the documents’ classification.” “The government’s position therefore assumes a fact that has not yet been established.”

The Justice Department has asked the judge to allow investigators to quickly resume investigations through documents marked as classified. If the judge rules that the department cannot continue to rely on classified materials for its criminal investigation or insists the special master review them, prosecutors have vowed to appeal to the High Court.

The scrutiny of the documents is one of several federal and state investigations Trump is facing from his time in office and private business as he considers another race for the presidency in 2024.

Following the discovery, Trump’s lawyers sought the appointment of a special master to review the seized records for materials that may be covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege — a legal principle that prohibits disclosure. Something the president can shield the record from.

Deciding in favor of Trump’s request last week, Cannon rejected the Justice Department’s arguments that the records belong to the government and that because Trump is no longer president, he cannot claim executive privileges. Cannon was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020.

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