The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Former President Donald Trump's lawyers on Monday dismissed as a "storage dispute" Trump's retention of top-secret documents at his Florida home, urging a judge to keep in place a directive that temporarily halted key aspects of the Justice Department's criminal probe.
The Trump team also referred to the documents that were seized as "purported 'classified records,'" suggesting his lawyers do not concede the Justice Department's contention that highly sensitive, top-secret information was found by the FBI in its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
The lawyers asserted there is no evidence any of the records were ever disclosed to anyone and said at least some of the records belong to Trump and not to the Justice Department.
"This investigation of the 45th President of the United States is both unprecedented and misguided," they wrote. "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."
The 21-page filing underscores the significant factual and legal disagreements between lawyers for Trump and the U.S. government as the Justice Department looks to move forward with its criminal investigation into the illegal retention of national defense information at Mar-a-Lago and into the potential obstruction of that probe.
The investigation hit a roadblock last week when U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the Trump team's request for the appointment of an independent arbiter, also known as a special master, to review the seized records and prohibited for now the department from examining the documents for investigative purposes.
The Justice Department has asked the judge to lift that hold and said it would contest her ruling to a federal appeals court. The department said its investigation risked being harmed beyond repair if that order remained in place, noting that confusion about its scope and meaning had already led the intelligence community to pause a separate risk assessment it was doing.
But Trump's lawyers said in their own motion Monday that Cannon should not permit the FBI to resume its review of classified records.
"In opposing any neutral review of the seized materials, the Government seeks to block a reasonable first step towards restoring order from chaos and increasing public confidence in the integrity of the process," the lawyers wrote.
In the meantime, both sides on Friday night each proposed different names of candidates who could serve in the role of a special master, though they disagreed on the exact scope of duties the person should have. Cannon has said the yet-to-be-named arbiter would be tasked with reviewing the documents and weeding out from the investigation any that could be covered by claims of either executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
The Justice Department recommended either Barbara Jones, a retired judge in Manhattan who has served as special master in prior high-profile investigations, or Thomas Griffith, a retired federal appeals court jurist in the District of Columbia who was appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush.