The US Department of Justice said efforts had been made to “obstruct” its probe into Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified documents from his days at the White House, casting doubt on the former president’s claims that he has co-operated with federal investigators.
In a court filing just before midnight on Tuesday, the justice department challenged Trump’s request for the appointment of a “special master” to review material recovered by the FBI during its search of his Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8 ahead of a hearing on the matter on Thursday.
But the DoJ’s filing went further, including a photograph of some of the highly classified documents retrieved from Trump’s Florida home. The filing also detailed the interactions between federal prosecutors and the former president’s team that led to the FBI search.
“The government . . . developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the justice department said.
“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 co-operation in this matter,” it added.
According to the filing, federal investigators seized 13 boxes or containers containing more than 100 documents with classification markings during the search of Mar-a-Lago. Some of the classified material was retrieved from Trump’s office at the estate and was mixed with other personal items, including a framed copy of a Time magazine cover.
On Wednesday, Trump responded on his social media platform, saying: “Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret. Lucky I Declassified!”
Previous court filings, including the government’s heavily redacted affidavit in support of the search warrant, have revealed that Trump is facing a criminal investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act — which covers the handling of sensitive information related to national defence — as well as obstruction of a judicial inquiry and the mishandling of public records.
The probe has been launched as Trump remains the putative frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, according to polls of Republican primary voters. He has suggested that he intends to run for a second term in the White House.
The search of Trump’s home by federal agents triggered a strong backlash across conservative America after he labelled it a politically motivated stunt designed to curb his political ambitions.
The search also added a twist to congressional campaigns ahead of the midterm elections in November. Some Republicans rushed to Trump’s defence and attacked the FBI and justice department, while others have been cagier as evidence has emerged of potential wrongdoing by the former president.
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