Former President Donald Trump on Monday filed court papers to combat a search warrant signed on Aug. 5 and executed on Aug. 8 at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The litigation is positioned as a “motion for judicial oversight and additional relief.” It is docketed under the caption Trump v. United States Government.
“Politics cannot be allowed to impact the administrative of justice,” the motion asserts.
It also does not initially refer to Trump as a past-tense president.
“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 continues. “Beyond that, his endorsement in the 2022 mid-term elections has been decisive for Republican candidates.”
Later, however, the document asserts that the search involved the “former President’s home” — a tacit acknowledgement that Joe Biden is, indeed, the president.
The motion calls the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago a “shockingly aggressive move” with “no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans.”
“[R]oughly two dozen Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (‘FBI’), directed by attorneys of the U.S. Department of Justice, raided the home of President Donald J.Trump,” it goes on. “According to the Government, the agents seized documents, privileged and/or potentially privileged materials, and other items — including photos, handwritten notes, and even President Trump’s passports — that were outside the lawful reach of an already overbroad warrant. President Trump, like all citizens, is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Property seized in violation of his constitutional rights must be returned forthwith.”
“Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans,” the motion then asserts. “It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes. Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid on President Trump’s home.”
The privileged materials referenced are purported to be communications between Trump and his “top advisors.” The document claims those materials are “presumptively privileged” and that protecting the purported privilege is important to the “institution of the Presidency” no matter who is in office.
One section of the filing balks that there was no “exigency” to support a “forceful raid” on Mar-a-Lago. Exigency, however, is usually a word employed in legal circles to excuse the need for a warrant in pursuit of a suspected criminal. Here, a warrant was secured.
Another section of the motion confirms that Trump was the subject of a May 11, 2022 grand jury subpoena which sought “documents bearing classification markings.”
The document contains multiple hearty assurances that Trump was cooperative with multiple government efforts to glean “boxes” of documents from the palatial Florida compound. One such visit is alleged to have occurred as follows:
[O]n June 3, 2022, Jay Bratt, Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section in the DOJ’s National Security Division, came to Mar-a-Lago, accompanied by three FBI agents. President Trump greeted them in the dining room at Mar-a-Lago. There were two other attendees: the person designated as the custodian of records for the Office of Donald Trump, and counsel for President Trump. Before leaving the group, President Trump’s last words to Mr. Bratt and the FBI agents were as follows: “Whatever you need, just let us know.”
Bratt inspected what the motion describes as “a storage room,” and “[r]esponsive documents were provided,” the document asserts.
A follow-up conversation is said to have included a request by Bratt that Trump secure the room; a “second lock” was therefore installed at Trump’s alleged request.
What followed was the now famous search. Trump’s attorneys claim Bratt requested that Mar-a-Lago’s security cameras be turned off during the execution of the warrant; that request, the motion indicates, was “declined.”
The motion additionally says Trump tried to send a message to Attorney General Merrick Garland through Bratt on Aug. 11:
President Trump wants the Attorney General to know that he has been hearing from people all over the country about the raid. If there was one word to describe their mood, it is “angry.” The heat is building up. The pressure is building up. Whatever I can do to take the heat down, to bring the pressure down, just let us know.
Garland held a press conference “just hours” after that phone call in which he admitted personally approving the warrant.
Trump’s attorneys, via their motion, are asking a judge to appoint a disinterested special master to review the materials seized.
The filing also asks a judge to “enjoin further review of seized materials by the Government until a Special Master is appointed.” The document further asks a judge to order the government to “provide a more detailed” list of the property recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
Finally, the document asks a judge to “require the Government to return any item seized that was not within the scope of the Search Warrant.”
The document does not directly ask the court to quash the entire warrant. It does, however, suggest that an “unlawful search and seizure of property” has occurred: “Even as the Government has dug in against transparency in the instant matter, fighting release of the Affidavit and claiming a redacted version would be “worthless” due to the need to hide the actual substance of the sworn statement, there are significant red flags that implicant President Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights and cry out for judicial intervention by way of a Special Master monitoring and discovery assistance.”
The motion was signed by Trump attorneys Lindsey Halligan of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; James M. Trusty of Washington, D.C.; and M. Evan Corcoran of Baltimore, Maryland.
The case was assigned to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who was a former federal prosecutor and who is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. However, an entry in the court docket says U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart “is available to handle any or all proceedings in this case.” Reinhart signed off on the underlying warrant.
University of Texas Law School Prof. Stephen Vladeck immediately suggested that Trump’s legal team was shopping for a judge sympathetic to the former president’s interests. He seemed to indicate that the aforementioned Trump motion was not filed in the closest federal courthouse to Mar-a-Lago’s physical address in Palm Beach. Rather, he initially believed it was filed in Fort Pierce. Judge Cannon is the sole judge assigned to that more distant federal courthouse according to a schedule dated last December, Vladeck tweeted. However, he subsequently deleted the tweet and apologized for the misstatement; the motion was filed in West Palm Beach and assigned to Cannon.
Read the document in its entirety below.
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