Lawyers for the former Donald Trump asked a federal judge on Monday to appoint a neutral third-party attorney—called an an independent arbiter, or a “special master”— to oversee the evidence seized in the FBI’s August 8 raid at his Mar-a-Lago home. The special master would also decide if any of the documents should be returned to Trump due to executive privilege or because they exceeded the scope of the search warrant.
This motion is part of a federal lawsuit, the first by Trump’s legal team in the weeks since the search. It takes “broad aim” at the FBI investigation into the allegedly classified records Trump took from the White House, the Associated Press reports.
The lawsuit characterized the August 8 raid, where the FBI said it recovered 26 boxes, including 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago—as “shockingly aggressive.” It also complains that the warrant was too broad, and asserts that the FBI and the Justice Department have a long history of treating Trump “unfairly.”
“Law enforcement is a shield that protects America. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes,” Trump’s attorneys wrote Monday. “Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid” at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump said in his own statement, “ALL documents have been previously declassified”—however, he has not brought forth any evidence to shore up that claim. He also characterized the documents as having been “illegally seized from my home.”
The federal magistrate judge who signed off on the search doubled down earlier Monday that there was “probable cause that evidence of multiple federal crimes would be found” at the Florida estate and reiterated his decision to authorize the search.
“Having carefully reviewed the Affidavit before signing the Warrant, I was—and am— satisfied that the facts sworn by the affiant are reliable,” wrote Judge Bruce Reinhart of the Southern District of Florida, via NBC News.
The requested special master, if appointed, would examine the evidence recovered from Mar-a-Lago and separate those that are shielded by executive privilege—the right of the president and members of the executive branch to withhold certain forms of confidential communication from the courts and the legislative branch. The role of special master could be held by a former judge.
“This matter has captured the attention of the American public. Merely ‘adequate’ safeguards are not acceptable when the matter at hand involves not only the constitutional rights of President Trump, but also the presumption of executive privilege,” attorneys wrote.
In a separate statement Monday, a federal judge admitted that redactions to an FBI affidavit explaining the foundation for the search could be so far-reaching that it might render the document “meaningless” if released to the public. However, he said he believed that it should not remain sealed due to “intense” public interest in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the National Archives found more than 150 classified documents when it seized the first group of 15 boxes of evidence from Mar-a-Lago back in January—part of what prompted the Justice Department to act quickly. In total, the government says it has taken back over 300 documents marked as classified from Trump since he left office.
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