DOJ says special master in Trump case would harm national security interests thumbnail

The Justice Department on Tuesday night said that appointing a special master “is unnecessary and would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”

The DOJ attempted to bolster its case to the court by including an FBI photo showing documents and “classified cover sheets recovered from a container” in Trump’s “45 office,” a reference to Trump being the 45th president. The photo shows documents marked “secret” and “top secret” and “SCI” —which stands for highly classified “sensitive compartmented information.”

In its late-night court filing, the Justice Department said that some of the documents seized were so sensitive and classified that FBI agents and DOJ attorneys needed additional security clearances to review them.

The filing came in response to former President Donald Trump‘s request Aug. 22 — two weeks after the Mar-a-Lago search — for a special master to review the documents seized from his Florida estate.

Justice officials said that the appointment of a special master would impede the government’s ongoing criminal investigation.

Such a review of classified documents “would impede the Intelligence Community from conducting its ongoing review of the national security risk that improper storage of these highly sensitive materials may have caused and from identifying measures to rectify or mitigate any damage that improper storage caused,” the DOJ document states.

The Justice Department said it could not trust information that came from Trump’s orbit ahead of the Florida search and that a representative for the former president falsely asserted that classified documents had been turned over to the government. The fact that so many documents were found “casts serious doubt” on the Trump team’s claim that there had been “a diligent search” for documents responsive to the grand jury subpoena in May.

“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” the Justice Department said in the filing.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, signaled over the weekend that she was inclined to grant the former president’s request and appoint a third party to review the documents to ensure they don’t contain information protected by attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department has said that a government filter team that’s separate from the investigation had already identified “a limited set of materials” potentially containing privileged information.

In Tuesday night’s filing, the Justice Department argued a special master is unnecessary because government review teams have already finished their work. “It would do little or nothing to protect any legitimate interests that Plaintiff may have while impeding the government’s ongoing criminal investigation,” the DOJ filing says.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s filing, the Justice Department had asked permission to file a response of up to 40 pages to Trump’s special master request “in order to adequately address the legal and factual issues raised” by Trump’s legal team.

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