The Justice Department on Tuesday said in a filing that former President Donald Trump and his legal team "likely" tried to conceal classified documents after being hit with a grand jury subpoena.
The 36-page filing, which came in response to Trump's dubious request to appoint a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago residence, details the DOJ's evidence of obstruction of justice. The DOJ filing suggests that Trump and his team may have tried to mislead investigators when Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed a document affirming that all classified documents sought by the National Archives had been returned.
The DOJ filing included a photo of some classified documents that were seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago office, some of which are labeled "Top Secret," "Secret" and "Sensitive Compartmented Information."
"Lordy, there are pics," tweeted conservative attorney George Conway.
The filing detailed extensive efforts to recover the documents that led investigators to believe that "government records were likely concealed and removed … and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation."
Agents during the August 8 Mar-a-Lago search found material so sensitive that "even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents," according to the filing.
The filing also includes a written document signed by Bobb affirming that Trump had turned over all relevant documents in response to a grand jury subpoena seeking records he withheld after turning over 15 boxes of materials to the National Archives earlier this year. When the FBI searched the property, they found more than 100 more classified documents, which "calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter," the filing said.
The filing said that agents came to believe that Bobb and fellow Trump attorney Evan Corcoran may have obstructed the investigation.
"The former President's counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained" after Bobb signed the document, the filing said, undercutting Trump and his lawyers' claims that he was "cooperating fully" with the probe.
The filing came after Trump's lawyers sought to have a judge appoint a special master to review the seized documents for potentially privileged information. The DOJ said in a filing on Monday that a "filter team" had already reviewed the files for possibly privileged documents. The DOJ argued that Trump's request is now effectively moot and rejected Trump's demand to return the documents "because those records do not belong to him."
"The former President cites no case — and the government is aware of none — in which executive privilege has been successfully invoked to prohibit the sharing of documents within the Executive Branch," the filing said.
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Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointee, signaled earlier this week that she may be inclined to grant Trump's request for a special master. But the move would do little to impact the investigation and some legal experts believe that Trump's request already backfired.
"It opened the door for DOJ to publicly correct the record in Response brief," tweeted Ryan Goodman, an NYU Law professor. "Trump's legal team, and their client, again with self-inflicted wounds."
Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team, agreed that the Trump request was a "huge misstep."
"DOJ has used its response to disclose damning proof of a series of crimes, which it would not otherwise have been able to do," he wrote. "And one very compelling photo."
Weissmann in an appearance on MSNBC also suggested that Trump's attorneys may need to lawyer up themselves.
"You need to withdraw as counsel and you need to get the best defense counsel you can possibly get and stop talking," Weissmann warned Trump's lawyers. "They are clearly going to be interviewed and, at the very least, they're going to be witnesses… And I say at the very least because they could be in worse trouble here."
Conway, a frequent Trump critic, agreed that all signs suggest that the DOJ may prosecute Trump's lawyers as co-defendants: "I think it would be almost crazy NOT to anticipate such an indictment at this point."
Read the full DOJ filing below:
about the Mar-a-Lago probe