Trump argues that he has broad authority as President to declassify records, and that a former President should have “absolute right of access” to presidential records — whether they are classified or not.
“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,” Trump’s legal team writes.
Trump’s filing called Mar-a-Lago a “a secure, controlled access compound utilized regularly to conduct the official business of the United States during the Trump Presidency, which to this day is monitored by the United States Secret Service,” and that the documents were kept in a locked room.
“The Government generally points to the alleged urgent need to conduct a risk assessment of possible unauthorized disclosure of purported ‘classified records.’ But there is no indication any purported ‘classified records’ were disclosed to anyone,” Trump’s filing states.
According to court documents, investigators previously asked Trump in June to secure any classified documents in a locked room at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department has said in court that it treats documents marked as classified as such, until they can be fully reviewed. But Trump’s team uses the fact that documents haven’t been fully reviewed yet to argue that he and a special master should be able to access the records marked as classified.
“There still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents. The Government’s position therefore assumes a fact not yet established,” Trump’s team wrote.
US District Judge Aileen Cannon, when she ordered a special master be brought in to review documents obtained during the search, halted any use of the seized materials for the DOJ’s criminal investigation. She said, however, that the intelligence community’s assessment could continue. The Justice Department argues the criminal probe could not be decoupled from the intelligence community’s review.
Trump’s team also wrote that a “President enjoys absolute authority under the Executive Order to declassify any information. There is no legitimate contention that the Chief Executive’s declassification of documents requires approval of bureaucratic components of the executive branch. Yet, the Government apparently contends that President Trump, who had full authority to declassify documents, ‘willfully’ retained classified information in violation of the law. Moreover, the Government seeks to preclude any opportunity for consideration of this issue.”
This story has been updated with additional details.