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Former President Trump’s legal team on Tuesday said the raid of Mar-a-Lago and the investigation into the mishandling of classified documents is “unprecedented” and “at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control.”
The comment was part of the response that Trump’s lawyers filed to the Justice Department’s motion for a partial stay in the 11th Circuit. The Justice Department asked that the court allow it to continue using classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation of the former president, and an appeals court gave Trump’s attorneys until Tuesday afternoon to respond.
“This investigation of the 45th President of the United States is both unprecedented and misguided,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their filing. “In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, the Government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th President of his own Presidential and personal records.”
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon approved the appointment of Judge Raymond Dearie — a candidate for the role proposed by Trump’s team and approved by the DOJ — to serve as special master to conduct an independent review of the records seized during the FBI’s raid last month.
Trump’s lawyers said that the appointment was made in “the public interest, the principles of civil and criminal procedure, and the principles of equity,” and said Dearie should be allowed to do his job.
“Having failed to convince the District Court to impose a stay of its Order, the Government now asks this Court to ‘presuppose the content, designation, and associated interests in materials under its control,’…and to preclude any review by a highly regarded and jointly recommended special master of what the Government unilaterally contends are ‘classified records,’” Trump’s lawyers said. They argued the 11th Circuit “should, respectfully, decline the Government’s invitation to proceed directly toward a preordained conclusion.”
Trump’s lawyers stressed that the district court “did not err in temporarily enjoining the Government’s review and use of records bearing classification markings for criminal investigative purposes because the merits support that narrowly tailored injunction.”
Trump’s legal team also said the 11th Circuit should deny the request to stay the portion of the special master’s appointment order requiring the disclosure of “classified records,” saying appointing a special master is “simply not appealable” under U.S. Code.
The Justice Department’s motion for a stay would allow prosecutors to continue working with classified documents while Special Master Dearie reviews other records.
Government prosecutors argued in the motion that Trump would not be able to assert executive privilege over the documents, which are the property of the executive branch. They urged the court to rule on their motion quickly because the “public would suffer irreparable harm absent a stay.”
The DOJ also argued that a stay allowing prosecutors to continue to use classified documents in a criminal investigation wouldn’t interfere with Dearie’s review process.
Dearie has until Nov. 30 to finish reviewing the seized records. Dearie, at this point, will review records with classification markings, and filter out any that are personal records or that may be protected by claims of executive privilege.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.