Trump sues Justice Department over search
Former US President Donald Trump has asked a judge to freeze the justice department’s investigation of files seized from his Mar-a-Lago home.
In a lawsuit, his legal team asked that an independent lawyer be appointed to oversee the documents that FBI agents took earlier this month.
Eleven sets of classified files were taken from Trump’s Florida estate on 8 August, according to the FBI.
Trump is being investigated for potentially mishandling documents.
US presidents must transfer all of their documents and emails to a government agency called the National Archive – and the FBI is investigating whether Trump improperly handled records by taking them from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after he left office in January 2021.
He has denied any wrongdoing and said the items were declassified.
In the 27-page document filed in a Florida court, Trump’s legal team accuses the justice department’s search as “simply wanting the camel’s nose under the tent so they could rummage for either politically helpful documents or support efforts to thwart President Trump from running again”.
“President Donald J Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary and in the 2024 General Election, should he decide to run,” it says.
“Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans,” it continues. “It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes.”
The “shockingly aggressive move” on Mar-a-Lago by about two dozen FBI agents took place “with no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans”, said Trump’s lawyers.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a brief statement that prosecutors were aware of Trump’s lawsuit, and would respond in court. The “search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorised by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause”, said spokesman Anthony Coley.
It comes as the New York Times reported on Monday that agents had so far recovered over 300 documents with classified markings from Trump, including material from the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI.
Trump’s legal action was filed in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, before a judge that Trump nominated to the bench in 2020.
Trump is suing for more detailed list of exactly what was taken from his estate and is asking for the government to return any item which was not in the scope of the search warrant.
His lawyers have also asked that a “neutral” third-party attorney – known as a special master – be brought in to determine whether the seized files are covered by executive privilege, which allows presidents to keep certain communications under wraps.
Special masters are normally appointed in criminal cases where there are concerns that some evidence may be protected under attorney-client privilege, or other protections that could make it inadmissible in court.
The court filing argues that Trump had been co-operating with agents before the FBI turned up unannounced at his home. (BBC)