On Friday, US District Judge Aileen Cannon released a previously sealed court document giving a more detailed list of government documents seized by the FBI in the August 8 search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private residence and resort.
The seven-page list shows that the ex-president was illegally holding more than 11,000 government documents at his private club, including over a hundred marked “secret,” “top secret,” “confidential” or “classified.” The document also listed scores of empty folders marked either “classified” or “return to staff secretary/military aide.”
Significantly, many state secret documents, as well as non-classified government records, were recovered from Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago, in addition to the many more found in the basement storage room of the compound. According to the unsealed list, seven “top secret” documents, 17 “secret” documents and three documents marked “confidential” were taken from the office, as well as 43 empty folders marked “classified” and 28 folders with the marking “return to staff secretary/military aide.”
This confirms the claim by Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors included in their August 30 brief to Judge Cannon that Trump and his lawyers lied to the DOJ when they handed over a packet of classified documents in early June and claimed to be in compliance with a subpoena issued the previous month demanding the return of all classified presidential records being held at the Trump compound. A Trump lawyer issued a sworn affirmation that the compound had been diligently searched and all classified documents had been removed, and any remaining government records were securely stored in the basement storage room.
As documented in the unsealed list released Friday, highly classified documents were scattered among boxes of assorted government records, photographs, news articles, magazines, etc. From the standpoint of the capitalist state and its intelligence agencies, such treatment of sensitive material, possibly including “signals intelligence” on foreign leaders and reports from spies, is anathema.
The Presidential Records Act passed in 1978 following the Watergate crisis declared that presidential records were the property of the US government, and not the personal property of the individual occupying the White House, either during or after his or her tenure.
In the affidavit submitted last month to US District Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart arguing for the search warrant that was used in the August 8 raid, the DOJ cited Trump’s months-long delay in handing over documents requested by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and other evidence to claim probable cause to prosecute for violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice. In the August 30 brief to Judge Cannon, the DOJ brought forward the obstruction charge, reviewing Trump’s record of non-compliance with subpoenas and false statements to government agents about the documents.
Justice Department lawyers made this argument in opposition to filings by Trump lawyers urging Cannon, a Trump appointee, to appoint a third-party “special master” to review all seized documents over the ex-president’s claims of executive privilege and/or attorney-client privilege and, in the interim, halt the government’s review of the documents.
The DOJ argued that executive privilege did not apply, since both the president and the Justice Department are part of the executive branch and executive privilege is traditionally invoked against claims by Congress on the president.
As for attorney-client privilege, Justice Department official Jay Bratt told Judge Cannon at a closed-door hearing Thursday that 64 sets of documents, comprising some 520 pages, had already been separated out as possibly protected by that provision, and in any event the DOJ had already reviewed the documents seized on August 8 during the two weeks before Trump filed his brief for a special master.
In their brief to Judge Cannon, the DOJ lawyers said they would have no objection to having the more detailed list of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago unsealed, evidently believing it would help their case.
Trump’s legal team submitted an 18-page filing to Judge Cannon Wednesday night, flatly asserting that the contested documents were Trump’s “own presidential records” and denouncing the August 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago as “illegitimate.”
In the course of the two-hour hearing on Thursday, one of Trump’s lawyers compared his client’s repeated failure to return government documents to NARA or fully comply with the grand jury subpoena for classified documents with holding on to an “overdue library book.”
Judge Cannon indicated she was inclined to grant some form of third party review to Trump’s legal team and challenged the DOJ’s categorical rejection of executive privilege, but said she would issue a written decision some time in the future and that, in the meantime, the Justice Department’s review of the documents could continue.
The Republican Party leadership continues to seize on the August 8 raid to incite the fascistic layers in the party’s base, citing it as proof that it is the “radical left” Democratic Party, not Trump and the Republicans, who are attacking democracy. Speaking in a contested congressional district in Scranton, Pennsylvania Thursday in a prebuttal of Biden’s nationally televised speech later that evening, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “Joe Biden and the radical left in Washington are dismantling Americans’ democracy before our very eyes.”
Meanwhile, the Democrats are lurching ever further to the right, seeking to unite with the Republicans to impose the full burden of the economic crisis, runaway inflation and the cost of the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine on the working class. Democrat Matt Castelli, running for US Congress in New York state against Trump acolyte and House Republican Chair Elise Stefanik, is touting the campaign slogan “Country before Party” and boasting of his years with the CIA and his military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His campaign site features his tenure as counterintelligence head of the National Security Council under first Obama and then Trump.
Democratic Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, running for Senate against Trump fascist J. D. Vance, is emphasizing his votes for Trump’s trade war measures and anti-China tariffs.