In a court declaration that was just made public, former President Donald Trump contended that he had decided that all the data he brought to Mar-a-Lago were, in fact, his personal property. A president is entitled to determine whether materials from his White House are confidential documents.
The argument is part of Trump’s most recent legal effort to delay the criminal probe into private documents stored at his Florida home and resort after he left the White House. Trump’s legal argument on when he may consider records from his White House to be personal is incorrect, the Justice Department retorted.
According to the government, the plaintiff “may not designate records qualifying as ‘Presidential Records’ under the Presidential Record Act… as his ‘personal’ records simply by saying so.” The department added that this would “nullify” the statute’s intent.
The claims were made in opposing “global issues” briefs that Trump and the DOJ submitted last week under seal to outline their broad positions on how special master Raymond Dearie, a senior judge in Brooklyn, should go about reviewing the items the FBI took from Trump’s Florida residence in August.
US District Judge Aileen Cannon released a redacted version of the papers on Monday. They asked Dearie to perform a third-party evaluation of whether records should be withheld from investigators due to privilege concerns. While the remaining privilege challenges are resolved, the Justice Department advised the special master that prosecutors should be permitted to use approximately 2,800 documents in their criminal investigation.
Trump’s claim that he can magically make presidential records “personal” just by saying they are is like his claim that he can declassify records by telepathy. These aren’t legal arguments at all. They’re pure BS. https://t.co/zMG6vOQBFJ via @politico
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) November 15, 2022
As long as privilege disputes are settled regarding one document Trump claims is protected by attorney-client privilege and more than 121 documents he claims are shielded by executive privilege, criminal investigators would be able to access the majority of the documents seized from the former president’s Florida resort, according to the latest DOJ filing.
According to the Justice Department, Trump has attempted to label “several hundred” seized records as belonging to him personally. The department criticised his reasoning while asserting that even if the data are private, they should not be excluded from the federal criminal investigation into suspected improper handling of Trump White House files discovered at Mar-a-Lago.
The former president claimed that the federal government would have to sue Trump if it disagreed with how he declared the information personal. Trump’s legal team stated: “Plaintiff was permitted to classify the seized papers as personal records while he served as President, and did in fact do so.”
“The documents in question were packed, transferred, and delivered to President Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, home while he was still in office. As a result, he had the authority to designate some documents as personal because he was the President of the United States at the time. As a result, the records in question are presumed to be confidential.
The special master did not examine any of the Mar-a-Lago records designated as classified as part of his evaluation of the disputed materials, which totalled around 22,000 pages. Criminal prosecutors and intelligence officials are examining those.
Asserting executive privilege
The government disagreed with Trump’s definition of personal records. It refuted his claims that if Dearie rejected his claim that a document was a personal record, the former president might then claim executive privilege over the paper. The agency advised that “The Special Master should not embrace this form of gamesmanship.”
Additionally, the agency demanded that Trump testifies under oath regarding whether the government accurately characterised what it took from Mar-a-Lago. The former president would be forced to defend public, out-of-court claims that the FBI fabricated evidence during the search. Requests for Trump to verify the government’s account of what it took from his resort have been rejected by his attorneys.
The agency referred to Cannon’s prior attempt to stop the demand for such disclosure in its latest submission. According to DOJ, she did so based on the idea that Trump hadn’t had an opportunity to look over the seized files at the time.
“Considerations of fairness, integrity, and evenhandedness require Plaintiff to do what the government has done, namely, verify the property inventory or correct it if he believes it to be in error,” the prosecution said. “Now that Plaintiff has reviewed the seized materials and claimed the overwhelming majority of them to be his records,” the prosecution said.