The photograph of highly classified documents strewn across the floor at Mar-a-Lago beside a box of framed Time magazines had already gone viral Wednesday morning as perhaps the defining image of the ongoing investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified information.
The image was attached to a 36-page filing from the Department of Justice in the ongoing court battle by Trump to have a special master review the documents seized by federal agents when they searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private Florida club and residence, in August. And it’s by no means the most damning claim from the overnight court filing, which you can read below.
In the filing, the DOJ asserts that Trump was likely taking efforts to obstruct justice: “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
Trump’s lawyers claimed to the DOJ there were no other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago in June. After handing over what they claimed were the remaining classified documents in a sealed legal envelope, a Trump lawyer “represented that there were no other records stored in any private office space or other location at the Premises and that all available boxes were searched.” That envelope contained “38 unique documents bearing classification markings including . . . 17 documents marked as TOP SECRET.”
The August search warrant at Mar-a-Lago produced “over a hundred classified records including information classified at the highest levels,” including three classified documents that “were located in the desks in the ’45 [Trump’s personal] Office.’”
The filing also contains detailed arguments against the appointment of a special master to review the documents, which Trump has claimed is necessary to review the documents to determine if they contain any privileged material. The DOJ noted a review by a filter team for any privileged information had already been completed. It also pushed back against Trump’s claims of executive privilege to justify holding on to the documents that the National Archives had requested under the Presidential Records Act, noting that there is no precedent for invoking executive privilege “to prohibit the sharing of documents within the Executive Branch.”
Read the DOJ filing
Trump’s lawyers are due to file a response on Wednesday, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the matter before Aileen Cannon, a Trump-nominated federal judge in South Florida.
On his personal social media site, Truth Social, Trump said Thursday morning “Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”
Trump has claimed that he had somehow automatically declassified any documents at Mar-a-Lago. There is no evidence that he did so, and his lawyers have not made the same claims in court filings.