A Justice Department report said efforts were likely to obstruct the government’s investigation of documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home months before the FBI visited it. In a court filing this Tuesday, the government laid out the most detailed timeline of the events that led to the unprecedented search of the premises, which was challenged by Mr. Trump’s proposal to have the seized documents vetted by a third-party arbiter. In the search, investigators found documents in places other than in the storage room where Mr. Trump’s lawyers assured them all were stored. The FBI did not state where they found the other documents, but it offers a clue on why Melania’s wardrobe was searched.
Throughout the 36-page document, the Justice Department emphasized the urgency of securing the classified material after Mr. Trump failed to return it earlier this year during several less intrusive attempts.
Mr. Trump’s team was issued a grand jury subpoena in May seeking all classified documents from the premises. An accordion folder of documents was handed over to FBI agents on June 3 by a representative of Mr. Trump, according to the government’s filing. According to the filing, another team member attested that all documents that responded to the subpoena had been provided.
According to the Justice Department, further investigation showed that was not the case. Despite the sworn certification provided to the government on June 3, the FBI discovered multiple sources of evidence that the response to the May 11 grand jury subpoena was incomplete. As part of its investigation, the Justice Department also found evidence that government records were probably concealed and removed from the Storage Room.
Two Trump lawyers, Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb were at Mar-a-Lago on June 3. The Justice Department’s filing claims that no one present said Mr. Trump had declassified documents or claimed executive privilege that day, casting doubt on arguments his team has advanced in recent weeks.
With more than two dozen boxes of classified documents taken away by agents on Aug. 8, GOP lawmakers rallied around the former President as he signaled he might run again for the White House in 2024, prompting a furious political response.
A photo in the Tuesday filing showed pages marked “TOP SECRET” spread out on a carpet next to a box that held items, including a framed Time magazine cover. The FBI seized “more than twice the amount produced on June 3, 2022, in response to the grand jury subpoena.”
According to the filing, some FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys who conducted the review required additional clearances.
The U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will hear Mr. Trump’s motion to appoint a special master on Thursday. A special master reviews the evidence and decides whether legal doctrines like attorney-client privilege protect particular materials. His legal team will be led by Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general with strong ties to the GOP.
According to the Justice Department, the former President lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight over presidential records as he does not own those records.
The filing also noted that a filter team of lawyers and investigators had already segregated any documents that they deemed might be subject to attorney-client privilege. Filter team members are separate from those overseeing the ongoing criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
According to Tuesday’s filing, investigators have reviewed all remaining materials, including those potentially subject to executive privilege claims.
Mr. Kise’s hearing on Thursday is the first legal battle he faces after joining Mr. Trump’s team and leaving his firm, Foley & Lardner, for the job, according to one of those familiar with the matter. In the past, he has successfully argued cases before the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Kise worked on the transition teams of several Republican governors, such as Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis.
Adding Kise to the legal team will give Mr. Trump a seasoned Florida lawyer with experience in the Southern District, where the court case is pending. According to NBC News, the hiring was announced earlier Tuesday.