By Jack Phillips
A lawyer for former President Donald Trump criticized the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the FBI raid on the 45th president’s Mar-a-Lago residence and said it is a “fair question” to ask whether the agency is engaging in a cover-up.
“What we have in this situation is a historical first. And I mean that in a very negative way, to have this search warrant based on failed [National Archives] negotiations, I suppose, that allowed the government to basically ransack the president’s residence,” attorney James Trusty told Fox News this weekend.
“You’d think in this era of the attorney general constantly talking about rule of law and transparency, that we would be the first one to say, ‘Sure another set of eyes is perfectly fine.’”
The DOJ and Trump’s team are embroiled in a court battle in asking a judge to appoint a special master to review documents that were taken by the FBI during last month’s raid. While the DOJ has argued against the procedure, a judge sided with Trump’s lawyers last week and ordered the appointment of a special master.
Trump and the DOJ on Sept. 9 submitted their picks for the special master position. In a separate court filing, the DOJ last week submitted an appeal of the order to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Among other arguments, government prosecutors said that appointing a special master—a neutral third-party—would delay its investigation.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, also blocked the DOJ and FBI from using the seized records “for investigative purposes” but stipulated the order would not impact an assessment being carried out by the 17-agency Intelligence Community (IC) regarding the seized documents.
However, DOJ attorneys wrote that FBI officials would also be involved in the IC assessment, rendering it impossible to carry out.
“Before the Court’s Order, the same personnel from the FBI involved in the criminal investigation were coordinating appropriately with the IC in its review and assessment,” government lawyers wrote. “The application of the injunction to classified records would thus frustrate the government’s ability to conduct an effective national security risk assessment and classification review and could preclude the government from taking necessary remedial steps in light of that review—risking irreparable harm to our national security and intelligence interests.”
As Trump has maintained the raid is politically motivated and that he did nothing wrong, Trusty accused the DOJ of promoting a narrative that it cannot be questioned.
“It would have been so much more respectful of the department and of this attorney general if they turned around and said, ‘You know what, good idea to have a special master, we have nothing to hide. Let’s get at it.’ But that’s not the approach. It’s a constant fight,” he told Fox News.
The DOJ has not returned a request for comment.