The DOJ was apparently open late on Tuesday night after they dropped a filing in an attempt to block Donald Trump’s request for a special master regarding the Mar-a-Lago raid. The FBI searched the property and took boxes of classified information on August 8th. For Trump’s part, he has steadfastly asserted he declassified everything he took, and his presidential powers would have given him that ability prior to leaving office.
Following a recent admission that the FBI took attorney-client privileged information, the former president asked the court to appoint a third-party special master to review all the documents. The judge in the case then released a preliminary decision to do just that, which sent the DOJ into fits of rage.
That’s basically what their filling consists of. It’s the same tired, weak excuses about “national security” in an attempt to never be held accountable. It also included a picture of the documents scattered on the floor that is causing hearts to flutter. Jonathan Turley offers some insight.
The arguments raised by the Justice Department are not just familiar but transparently weak. The government argues that Trump lacks standing because the records belong to the United States, not him…https://t.co/3P4HZv5wBd
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) August 31, 2022
The Department makes many of the same claims that it used to opposed the release of a redacted affidavit, claims shown to have been misleading and exaggerated after the magistrate ordered the release. Notably, this filing contained details that were likely redacted in the affidavit but just released on the public record.
In the most direct challenge to the former President’s public claims, the Justice Department claimed that he and his staff had failed to turn over classified material and that the Department had no choice but to search areas outside of the storage room. Indeed, it says that it found three classified documents in Trump’s desk without indicating the level of classification or subject matter.
Frankly, the idea that a special master would harm the nation’s security just makes no sense. This is the same DOJ that has been leaking details of what they found like a seive, including a claim about nuclear documents. Now, we are supposed to believe that a third party with a security clearance sorting through the material and generally noting what he’s found is dangerous. That doesn’t begin to wash, and it sounds like the same weak excuse given as to why the affidavit couldn’t be released.
Besides, isn’t it a little ironic to release a picture of the classified documents while at the same time claiming they are so sensitive a special master can’t view them? I understand the cover sheets don’t say much, but the visual alone is moronic.
It is curious that the DOJ would release this particular picture which suggests classified material laying around on the floor. The point is to state a fact that hardly needs an optical confirmation: the possession of documents with classified cover sheets. Indeed, the top of roughly half of the documents are redacted in photo. The government could simply affirmatively state the fact of the covered pages and would not likely be challenged on that point without the inclusion of this one photo.
For critics, the photo may appear another effort (with prior leaks) to help frame the public optics and discussion. Clearly the court did not need the visual aid of a picture of documents with covers. It seems clearly intended for public consumption.
As Turley notes, the photo is going to be seen by many as another attempt to push a public narrative (because it is). The photo itself adds nothing to the DOJ’s case. We already knew classified information was found because Trump himself has admitted to having it. The only reason to release that photo is to make it seem like Trump had classified documents strewn all over the floor. The picture is clearly staged, with all the “top secret” cover sheets perfectly framed for the camera, and the DOJ isn’t even denying that they laid the documents out that way.
Trump responded to the filing on his social media network.
— The Partyman (@PartymanRandy) August 31, 2022
Trump’s assertion about declassifying the documents remains the cardinal issue. It does not matter what the FBI found if the president had the right to possess it, and there is no question that presidents have total power over document classification. That’s exactly what the court is trying to figure out, and the DOJ’s filing once again assumes facts not yet in evidence, i.e. that Trump broke the law in having the documents.
As I’ve opined before, there’s a difference between the legal question here and whether Trump made strategic blunders in the process. If he had Russia-gate documents, he should have absolutely released those before leaving office instead of handing the DOJ another two-year legal battle on a platter. Still, he is not a criminal for exercising his power as president, and I believe this judge (who was appointed by Trump) is deadset on handling this fairly, without a nod to the bureaucracy’s corruption.