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Trump Says Redacted Affidavit Reinforces Need for Special Master

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/27/2022 Erik Larson
Donald Trump speaks during the America First Policy Institute's America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Trumps remarks come on the heels of a House hearing that portrayed him standing by indifferently, even vindictively, for hours as a mob of his supporters battled police and chased lawmakers through the halls of the Capitol. © Bloomberg Donald Trump speaks during the America First Policy Institute's America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Trumps remarks come on the heels of a House hearing that portrayed him standing by indifferently, even vindictively, for hours as a mob of his supporters battled police and chased lawmakers through the halls of the Capitol.

(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers said Friday’s release of a redacted FBI affidavit underscores the importance of appointing a neutral third party to review documents seized during an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate.

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The redacted affidavit provides almost no information that would allow Trump to understand why the search occurred or what was taken, the lawyers said in a brief attempting to reinforce the legal basis of his lawsuit seeking the appointment of a so-called special master.

“The few lines that are unredacted raise more questions than answers,” the former president’s lawyers said.

Trump was supplied with a copy of the search warrant, which explained the precise reason for the search. And it followed more than a year of negotiations between Trump’s lawyers and the National Archives, which raised the alarm after White House records turned up missing. Trump in January returned 15 boxes of documents, which the archives said contained about 300 highly classified documents.

DALLAS, TEXAS - AUGUST 06: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. CPAC began in 1974, and is a conference that brings together and hosts conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders in discussing current events and future political agendas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images) © Photographer: Brandon Bell/Getty Images North America DALLAS, TEXAS - AUGUST 06: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. CPAC began in 1974, and is a conference that brings together and hosts conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders in discussing current events and future political agendas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 23 ordered Trump to file the brief less than 24 hours after the complaint was received, asking him to elaborate on why he believes the court has jurisdiction over such a case and explain the “precise relief” he is seeking.

The request from the Trump-appointed judge was seen by some legal experts as a possible sign of problems with the lawsuit, which is separate from a case in the same court over the search warrant that was used and the accompanying FBI affidavit.

The 27-page complaint was styled as a “motion for judicial oversight and additional relief,” though much of the filing is spent on Trump’s general grievances. The first page included a footnote saying that 84% of Republicans would support Trump if he ran again for the White House in 2024. Subsequent pages complain of a “raid” on Trump’s home by a “platoon of federal agents” and Trump’s claim that the government “refused” to give him “any reason” for the search.

Read more: Trump’s Return of Top Secret Files Convinced FBI He Had More

In June, after additional classified documents were discovered, Trump’s lawyer signed a statement with the Justice Department confirming that no additional classified records remained at Mar-a-Lago. Even so, the Aug. 8 search uncovered 11 sets of classified documents in about 20 boxes.

A team was appointed immediately to review the seized material for any documents that might be covered by executive or attorney client privilege, according to the FBI affidavit released Friday.

The affidavit also shed some light on the search of Trump’s estate, although much of the 32-page filing was blacked out to protect the investigation and witnesses who helped the government.

Still, the public learned that the 15 boxes of material that Trump turned over to the National Archives in January included 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 labeled confidential, 92 that were secret and 25 marked top secret. “Several of the documents” also had what appeared to be handwritten notes by the former president.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and offered a variety of explanations for the presence of classified documents at his home, including that he had a “standing order” to declassify records he took and that FBI agents may have planted evidence during the search.

The case is Trump v. United States of America, 9:22-cv-81294, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).

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