Former President Trump’s lawyers contradicted his assertions that the documents seized by the Department of Justice from his home at Mar-a-Lago were declassified, arguing in a court filing on Monday that the documents’ classification status should be “determined later.”
Trump’s lawyers did not claim that Trump had classified the documents, only that he had broad, virtually unquestionable authority to do so. The roundabout irresolution stands in contrast to Trump publicly stating that he had declassified the documents.
The filing was made in response to the DOJ’s appeal of Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to appoint a “special master” to conduct a review of the documents. The DOJ is seeking to shorten the period of time granted for the review, to exclude more than 100 classified documents, and to modify the criteria under which the review is conducted to exclude claims of privilege.
Despite the judge’s decision to grant the request for a special master, the DOJ already reviewed the documents while the Trump camp waited two weeks before filing their opposing motion. The trove of documents seized in the Aug. 8 raid contained almost two hundred documents with high-level classification markings, including “top secret” designations. According to The Washington Post, some of the documents contained information about an unidentified “foreign government’s nuclear-defense readiness.”
The filing on Monday indicates Trump’s team is seeking to apply a two-fold strategy in order to block the DOJ from reviewing the documents: arguing that “the former president” has broad authority to decide what is and isn’t declassified, and that under the Presidential Records Act the materials belong with either Trump, as his personal property, or with the National Archives — but not with the DOJ.
Rolling Stone previously reported that the former president was privately demanding that his lawyers recover the documents. This, along with the back and forth between Trump’s legal team and the DOJ also contradict public statements from Trump that the department had planted evidence against him and lost documents.
The DOJ and Trump’s legal team last Friday submitted their proposed appointees for the “special master” position.