'Irreparable harm': Justice Department warns against further delay in Trump documents probe
The Justice Department on Tuesday blasted efforts by former President Donald Trump’s lawyers to delay its investigation into classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department on Tuesday blasted efforts by former President Donald Trump’s lawyers to delay its investigation of classified documents seized at his Florida resort, while a magistrate judge unsealed some previously redacted information relating to the FBI's search of Trump's club.
"Plaintiff [Trump] has characterized the government’s criminal investigation as a 'document storage dispute' or an 'overdue library book scenario.' In doing so, Plaintiff has not addressed the potential harms that could result from mishandling classified information or the strict requirements imposed by law for handling such materials," the Justice Department said in a court filing urging U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to allow it to proceed for now with its criminal investigation into the over 100 classified documents the department says it took from Trump's home in Palm Beach, Florida.
The filing noted that the documents had "markings signifying that their unauthorized disclosure 'reasonably could be expected to result in damage to the national security,' including 'exceptionally grave damage,'" and it said any delay causes "irreparable harm" to the government and the public.
Cannon issued an order this month temporarily halting parts of the criminal investigation until a special master can review the evidence seized in the August search for attorney-client and executive privilege issues. Cannon said a national security damage assessment could continue, but the government said that the two probes are interrelated and that the review can't go on without the FBI's assistance. The Justice Department is asking the judge to stay her ruling while it appeals so it can investigate how the documents were handled.
Trump's attorneys have suggested in court filings that the documents were declassified and that they are his personal records and belong to him — contentions the Justice Department ridiculed in its new filing.
"As to the records marked as classified, Plaintiff asserts that the government has not 'proven' their classification status. But even if Plaintiff had declassified any of these records while he was President— a proposition that Plaintiff does not specifically assert in any of his filings in these proceedings, in a sworn declaration, or through any evidence — any record bearing classification markings was necessarily created by the government and, therefore, is not Plaintiff’s personal property," the filing said.
Furthermore, the government argued: “Even if Plaintiff had declassified these records, and even if he somehow had categorized them as his 'personal' records for purposes of the PRA [Presidential Records Act] — neither of which has been shown — nothing in the PRA or any other source of law establishes a plausible claim of privilege or any other justification for an injunction restricting the government’s review and use of records at the center of an ongoing criminal and national security investigation.”