December 2, 2022

Washington — The Justice Department filed a 36-page response late Tuesday night to former President Donald Trump’s request for a federal judge to appoint a third party to sift through the records seized at his Florida residence.

Following the execution of a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month, the former president filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to appoint a “special master” to examine the materials and filter out any privileged or unrelated documents that were not within the scope of the court-authorized warrant.

Last week, Judge Aileen Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida asked the Justice Department to explain its view of Trump’s request, setting a deadline of Tuesday for the government’s response. She also ordered the department to submit a more detailed list specifying all property seized during its execution of the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, though that document, also due Tuesday, was to be filed under seal.

In an order issued Saturday, before the Justice Department responded to Trump’s motion, Cannon gave notice of her “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master, though her decision was not final. A hearing on Trump’s request is set for Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, prosecutors said in a separate court filing that investigators had already completed their search for potentially privileged information and found a “limited” set of documents that might be considered protected under attorney-client privilege.

Investigators are probing Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, specifically records that he took from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago residence when he left office in January 2021, as well as possible obstruction of the investigation. 

The Justice Department revealed Friday that earlier this year, investigators found 184 unique documents bearing classification markings — including 67 documents marked confidential, 92 documents marked secret and 25 documents marked top secret — in material the National Archives and Records Administration initially collected from Trump in mid-January. The Archives later referred the mater to the Justice Department for further examination. 

The FBI search of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 yielded even more boxes with classification markings  and prosecutors have characterized their ongoing investigation as dealing with matters of national security.

For his part, the former president has denied wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the investigation is a politically motivated attack as he prepares for a possible presidential run in 2024.

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