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Stunning Revelations of Mar-a-Lago Search During Special Master Legal Proceedings

In a series of filings as part of its legal arguments, the Department of Justice has released remarkable details of the reasons for probable cause and the classified documents seized during their search of Mar-a-Lago.
Stunning Revelations of Mar-a-Lago Search During Special Master Legal Proceedings

In a Tuesday night filing to oppose a request from the Trump legal team for a special master to review the documents seized during this month's search and set aside those protected by claims of legal privilege, the Justice Department said that classified documents were "likely concealed and removed" from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an effort to obstruct the federal investigation into the discovery of the government records, reports NPR.

The filing comes as U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon was set to hear arguments on the matter on Thursday and said it was her "preliminary intent" to appoint such a person but also gave the Justice Department an opportunity to respond. The department said it had already completed its review of potentially privileged documents and identified a "limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information" and that a special master was therefore "unnecessary."

Trump team may have hidden or moved classified material, DOJ says (NPR)

Excerpt from NPR: The FBI seized 33 boxes containing more than 100 classified records during its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and found classified documents stashed in Trump's office, according to a filing that lays out the most detailed chronology to date of months of strained interactions between Justice Department officials and Trump representatives over the discovery of government secrets. It shows how investigators conducting a criminal probe have focused not just on why the records were improperly stored there, but also on the question of whether the Trump team intentionally misled them about the continued, and unlawful, presence of the top secret documents. The timeline laid out by the Justice Department made clear that the extraordinary search of Mar-a-Lago came only after other efforts to retrieve the records had failed, and that it resulted from law enforcement suspicion that additional documents remained inside the property despite assurances by Trump representatives that a "diligent search" had accounted for all of the material.
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According to the Washington Post, Judge Cannon seemed sympathetic to arguments presented by Donald Trump’s attorneys during Thursday's hearing that the former president may retain some executive privileges after he left the White House, but did not issue a ruling from the bench, instead saying she would deliver a written decision in "due course."

Cannon to issue written ruling on Trump special-master request (Washington Post)

Excerpt from the Washington Post: A newly hired Trump lawyer told Cannon that the appointment of a special master — essentially an independent outside expert — would bring down the "very high" temperature around the FBI’s investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents. "We need to take a deep breath," said Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general who left his law firm this week and entered into a multimillion-dollar deal to join Trump’s legal team. Jay Bratt, a senior Justice Department counterintelligence official, told Cannon that Trump was not entitled to a special master, emphasizing that the issue in the case is the possible hiding of highly sensitive government secrets in a private residence. Trump "is no longer the president, and because he is no longer the president, he did not have the right to take those documents," Bratt said.
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Based on a more detailed inventory released Friday, top secret and other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago were kept in boxes that also held newspaper and magazine clippings, clothing and gifts, according to a more detailed list, made public Friday, of items FBI agents seized in their search of former President Donald Trump’s home last month, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Court Releases Detailed FBI Inventory of Material Seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago (Wall Street Journal)

Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: Agents took around 33 boxes, containing more than 100 classified documents, prosecutors have said. Seven of the boxes or containers were located in Mr. Trump’s office and the rest in a storage room at the private club, according to the inventory. Prosecutors had previously made public a briefer list that showed agents had recovered sets of classified documents and other items, including the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump’s ally Roger Stone and information about the president of France, but the new inventory details how many items and of what type were found in each box. In one of the boxes found in Mr. Trump’s office, 99 newspaper and magazine clips dated from 2017 and 2018 were held alongside seven documents marked as top secret, 15 documents marked as secret, 43 empty folders marked as classified, and 28 empty folders labeled “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide,’ among other items, the receipt shows.
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In addition, the FBI’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida club and residence last month recovered 48 empty folders marked as containing classified information, a newly disclosed court filing shows, raising the question of whether the government had fully recovered the documents or any remain missing, writes the New York Times.

F.B.I. Found 48 Empty Folders That Had Contained Classified Documents at Trump’s Home (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: The filing, a detailed list of items retrieved in the search, was unsealed on Friday as part of the court fight over whether to appoint an independent arbiter to review the materials taken by federal agents when they descended on Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8. It also said that agents found seven documents marked as "top secret" in Mr. Trump’s office and 11 more in a storage room. The list and an accompanying court filing from the Justice Department did not say whether all the contents of the folders had been recovered. But the filing noted that the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents remained "an active criminal investigation."
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Finally, in a related story, also from the New York Times, as president, Donald J. Trump showed the most interest in intelligence briefings when the topics revolved around his personal relationships with world leaders and the power available at his fingertips. He took little interest in secret weapons programs, but he often asked questions about the look of Navy ships and sometimes quizzed briefers on the size and power of America’s nuclear arsenal.

Trump’s Tastes in Intelligence: Power and Leverage (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: He was fascinated by operations to take out high-value targets, like those that led to the deaths of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, and Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Iranian commander. But the details of broader national security policies bored him. Unlike some of his predecessors, Mr. Trump did not care about intelligence reports about UFOs, but he would ask questions about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Mr. Trump’s appetite for sensitive information is now at the heart of the criminal investigation into his handling of hundreds of classified documents he kept at his Florida home after leaving office. But a look at what most engaged Mr. Trump during intelligence briefings, based on interviews with former Trump administration officials and people involved in providing intelligence reports to him, suggests that he was often drawn to topics that had clear narratives, personal elements or visual components. 
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