Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is seen in Palm Beach, Florida, February 8, 2021.
Marco Bello | Reuters
The Department of Justice on Tuesday night urged a federal judge to oppose a request to appoint a special master to review documents seized from the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump earlier this month.
Trump had sued to block the Justice Department from further investigating any materials taken in the raid until a court-appointed special watchdog is able to analyze them.
“As an initial matter, the former President lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight as to Presidential records because those records do not belong to him,” the DOJ wrote in U.S. District Court in southern Florida.
Not only is appointing a special master “unnecessary,” but doing so “would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests,” the prosecutors wrote.
That harm could include impeding the intelligence community’s “ongoing review of the national security risk” that may have been caused by “improper storage of these highly sensitive materials,” the DOJ argued.
Documents seized by FBI from Mar-a-Lago
Department of Justice
The response came one day after the DOJ revealed to a federal judge that its review of the seized materials was complete.
A law enforcement team identified a “limited set” of materials that may be protected by attorney-client privilege, the DOJ told the court on Monday. That privilege often refers to the legal doctrine that protects the confidentiality of communications between an attorney and their client.
The so-called Privilege Review Team — which is separate from the investigation that led the FBI to search Trump’s residence earlier this month — is following a process to “address potential privilege disputes, if any,” the DOJ wrote.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, “is also leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials,” according to the filing.
The DOJ is conducting a criminal investigation of the removal of White House documents and their shipment to Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach when he left office.
By law, presidential records must be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration when a president leaves office.
Before the DOJ posted its late-night response, a group of former government officials asked the judge to let them file a brief as “amici curiae” — Latin for “friends of the court” — arguing against Trump’s requests.
The group included six former federal prosecutors who served in Republican administrations, as well as former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who governed as a Republican but backed President Joe Biden over Trump in 2020.
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