Home News Trump, DOJ filings at Dearie focus on whether Mar-a-Lago documents are ‘personal’

Trump, DOJ filings at Dearie focus on whether Mar-a-Lago documents are ‘personal’

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Trump, DOJ filings at Dearie focus on whether Mar-a-Lago documents are 'personal'
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In separate and conflicting legal documents unsealed on Monday, Donald Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department once again argued over whether the former president could claim documents from his time in the White House – Trump claiming that most of the documents were “personal” and with the government saying, essentially, absolutely not.

Trump’s team argued that most of the 13,000 unclassified documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida, belonged to the former president and that the federal government did not have the right to examine the documents seized. His lawyers said Trump had the right to designate presidential documents as personal under the Presidential Records Act.

The Justice Department, however, called this interpretation of the law “baseless.” To say that a president could simply designate presidential documents as personal would defeat the very purpose of federal law, the Justice Department wrote in its brief.

Under the Presidential Records Act, the immediate staff of the president, vice president, and anyone who advises the president must keep records and phone calls relating to official duties. Trump’s team argued that as president he did not need to document that he had changed the designation of the seized documents from presidential to personal.

“President Trump need not present documentary evidence of his designation decisions, as his conduct has unequivocally confirmed that he was treating the documents in question as personal records, rather than presidential records,” his officials wrote. lawyers.

The legal documents were submitted to Raymond J. Dearie, the court-appointed special master who was ordered by a Florida federal judge to review documents seized from Trump’s Florida residence and private club and to determine whether some should be shielded from criminal investigators because of executive or attorney-client privilege.

The purpose of the filings was for the parties to outline the major issues and disagreements they believe Dearie should address in her review.

The Trump Mar-a-Lago investigation is going down two tracks: one public, one private

Ultimately, if Dearie discovers that Trump had a lien or personal claim on certain documents — and U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon agrees with her recommendations — criminal investigators would not be allowed to view those documents. as part of their investigation.

The Justice Department is investigating Trump’s possession of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago long after he left office and despite a subpoena and other attempts by the federal government to retrieve the documents. While Dearie is only reviewing unclassified government documents found in the Aug. 8 search, the Justice Department said those documents are critical to the investigation and could help them interview witnesses and corroborate evidence. .

In its brief to Dearie, the Justice Department wrote that the filing by Trump’s lawyers “doubles as a wholesale rewrite of the [Presidential Records Act] which has no basis in its text or its object. The plaintiff appears to make this argument on the assumption that the designation of a document as “personal” somehow prevents the government from examining it. He is wrong on both counts.

Even if the documents were personal, the Justice Department said, law enforcement authorities are permitted to access personal documents in the context of criminal investigations.

“Nothing in the law prohibits the government from using documents recovered in a search if they are ‘personal’ and plaintiff offers no authority to suggest otherwise,” the Justice Department said.

Investigators see ego, not money, as Trump’s motive for keeping classified documents

Prosecutors also criticized Trump’s team for appearing to abandon their previous legal argument that, as a former president, Trump could claim executive privilege over seized documents. Instead, prosecutors said, Trump’s team changed course and argued that he could simply consider the documents personal.

Trump’s lawyers rebutted that framing in their filing and said that even if Dearie disagreed with their reading of the Presidential Records Act, the former president would still be entitled to those documents because of privilege. of the executive.

“The question now before the Special Master is therefore whether a president has the power to decide whether a document is a ‘presidential record’ or a ‘personal record,’” the Trump team wrote. “The clear language of the PRA and previous court rulings answer this question in the affirmative.”

Mary McCord, who served as the acting assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration, questioned this reading of the Presidential Records Act.

“Those are defined terms,” ​​McCord said of the law. “And it’s not defined as anything the president says is personal.”

The Justice Department previously won an appeal that excluded the 103 documents marked as classified from Dearie’s review, giving federal investigators immediate access to those documents for their criminal investigation. The Department’s appeal to overturn the Master’s Special Appointment in its entirety is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

washingtonpost

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