Let’s start with the fact that former President Donald Trump is simply not the sharpest tool in the shed. His latest court filing on Monday is not only a hot mess, but according to attorneys, it could also be an admission of guilt. While arguing for executive privilege, he’s equally admitting that he held on to top secret official government documents.
The Guardian reports that based on a motion filed Monday, Trump attorneys are calling for the court to appoint a “special master,” someone who would go through the various documents and ultimately decide which of those could be used as evidence by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
By asking the court for this special request, Trump all but admits that there are top secret documents that were unlawfully removed from the White House and, therefore, should be in the hands of the National Archives—the entire reason the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
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Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and former associate dean at Yale Law School, tells The Guardian, “If [Trump is] acknowledging that he’s in possession of documents that would have any colorable claim of executive privilege, those are by definition presidential records and belong at the National Archives.” She adds, “And so it’s not clear that executive privilege would even be relevant to the particular crime he’s being investigated for, and yet in this filing, he basically admits that he is in possession of them, which is what the government is trying to establish.”
Trump’s filing and maneuvering for a special master isn’t the savior he’s hoping for. U.S. attorneys told The Guardian that the motion itself could bring up a lot of things that lawyers for the former president would like the court to forget.
The motion outlines months of stalling and defiance on Trump’s part, as The Washington Post reports. A section of the motion titled “President Donald J Trump’s Voluntary Assistance” lays bare the pushing and prodding the DOJ was forced to do to get the boxes of government records to the National Archives (where of course, they belong)—all leading to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
The Guardian also reports that the brief itself was not only filed late in the process but also improperly filed: Instead of filing the motion in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the warrant was granted, Trump’s lawyers filed it in Ft. Pierce with a judge who has no knowledge of the affidavit “and could rule in such a way to reveal to Trump if he or his lawyers are suspects for obstruction,” per The Guardian.
Ken White, a criminal defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor, told Rolling Stone that the motion filed by Trump’s lawyers is “absolutely terrible,” adding that with regard to his lawyers filing another motion to retrieve documents taken from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, it would be “hard to contemplate him filing something even more aggressive and even more unlikely to succeed. ”
The bottom line is Trump rifled through government documents, and it appears he chose what to take to his Florida home and what to send to the National Archives.
Ultimately the FBI uncovered a total of 300 classified documents in Trump’s possession—including at least one set of materials marked with the highest level of ”top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” The New York Times reported.
Despite the fact that Trump has demanded that his lawyers get “my documents” back from the FBI, an unnamed Trump advisor tells Rolling Stone, “I hate to break it to the [former] president, but I do not think he is going to get all [the] top-secret documents back … That ship has probably sailed.”
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