The Justice Department said in a massive court filing on Tuesday night that US government documents were “likely concealed and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago in an effort to “obstruct” the FBI’s investigation into former President Donald Trump’s possible mishandling of classified materials.
According to the Justice Department, more than 320 classified documents have been found from Mar-a-Lago, including more than 100 in the FBI search earlier this month.
The lawsuit on Tuesday is the strongest evidence yet that Trump tried to obstruct the FBI investigation into the possible mishandling of sensitive material by concealing it at Mar-a-Lago.
When President Trump tried to intervene in the federal investigation that led to the search of his Florida resort and his request for a “special master” to be appointed to the case, the Justice Department published the shocking new details as part of its campaign to oppose Trump’s bid to intervene.
The Justice Department claimed that in Trump’s latest court filings regarding the Mar-a-Lago search, the president presented a “incomplete and incorrect narrative.”
To correct the “incomplete and erroneous narrative given out in Plaintiff’s papers,” prosecutors added, “the government presents below a thorough recitation of the pertinent facts.”
It provides a powerful counter to the criticisms leveled against the FBI’s extraordinary search of the residence of a former President, outlining in detail how Trump had neglected to return dozens of secret documents despite his lawyer’s assurances to the contrary.
One final page of the file included a photograph of Trump’s office floor covered in documents marked “HCS,” for “human confidential sources,” highlighting the extreme sensitivity of the information Trump had obtained.
The issue at hand concerns whether or not Trump will abide by a grand jury subpoena issued in May, requiring him to turn over sensitive materials from Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors said on Tuesday that it’s possible Trump’s lawyers removed records from a storage room before inspecting it to comply with the subpoena. Timeline is critical since Trump’s attorneys later informed investigators that they checked the storage facility and found no missing classified papers.
Prosecutors said that “the government also collected evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely conducted to hinder the government’s investigation.” As an example, “this included evidence indicating that boxes formerly stored in the Storage Room were not returned prior to inspection by counsel.”
Legal experts have taken notice of Cannon, a Trump appointee, after she made comments suggesting she was leaning toward appointing a special master in the Mar-a-Lago search. To begin with, Trump requested the appointment two weeks after his Florida property was searched, raising the possibility that the Justice Department had already completed its investigation. Second, although the search warrant is a criminal matter, both Trump and the judge have cited civil regulations pertaining to the appointment of a special master.
The search was related to a Department of Justice investigation into possible Espionage Act violations, criminal mismanagement of federal documents, and obstruction of justice, as evidenced by the redacted materials. An FBI affidavit made public last week states that an FBI review of 15 boxes collected by the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago in January revealed 184 documents with classification marks, some of which were identified as very sensitive government records.
While filing his request for a special master, Trump emphasized in court documents that the Presidential Records Act, a legislation from the Watergate era outlining the procedure for preserving presidential records, is not criminally enforceable. The three criminal laws that the DOJ referenced in its warrant paperwork went unmentioned. Trump’s attorneys have also stressed the president’s purportedly unrestricted right to declassify papers while in office, despite the fact that the relevant statutes do not mandate that the information be classified.