Former President Trump and his legal team filed a motion Monday evening seeking an independent review of the records seized by the FBI during its “unprecedented” and “unnecessary” raid of Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, saying the decision to search his private residence just months before the 2022 midterm elections “involved political calculations aimed at diminishing the leading voice in the Republican Party, President Trump.”
According to the motion filed Monday evening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Trump and his legal team are seeking an order to appoint a special master to review the records obtained during the search; blocks the further review of seized materials by the government until a special master is appointed; requires the Justice Department to provide a more detailed receipt for property and requires the government to return any item seized that was not within the scope of the search warrant.
Trump said Monday evening the motion is “strongly asserting” his rights, “including under the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution, regarding the unnecessary, unwarranted, and unAmerican Break-In by dozens of FBI agents, and others, of my home, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.”
“They demanded that the security cameras be turned off, a request we rightfully denied. They prevented my attorneys from observing what was being taken in the raid, saying ‘absolutely not,’” Trump said in a statement. “They took documents covered by attorney-client and executive privilege, which is not allowed. They took my passports. They even brought a ‘safe cracker’ and successfully broke into my personal safe, which revealed…nothing!”
Trump said he is “now demanding that the Department of ‘Justice’ be instructed to immediately STOP the review of documents illegally seized from my home.”
“ALL documents have been previously declassified,” Trump said. “We are demanding the appointment of a SPECIAL MASTER to oversee the handling of the materials taken in the raid. We are further demanding that the DOJ be forced to turn over a REAL, without ‘plants,’ inventory of my property that was taken and disclose where that property is now located.”
Trump added that he and his legal team are “demanding that all items wrongfully taken from my home be IMMEDIATELY returned.”
“The wrongful, overbroad warrant was signed by a Magistrate Judge who recused himself just two months ago, from a MAJOR civil suit that I filed, because of his bias and animus toward me,” he said. “This Mar-a-Lago Break-In, Search, and Seizure was illegal and unconstitutional, and we are taking all actions necessary to get the documents back, which we would have given to them without the necessity of the despicable raid of my home, so that I can give them to the National Archives until they are required for the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum.”
He added: “I will never stop fighting for the American people, our Country, and the Rule of Law. Make America Great Again!”
Trump and his legal team, in the motion filed Monday evening, stress that “politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice.”
“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,” the motion states. “Beyond that, his endorsement in the 2022 mid-term elections has been decisive for Republican candidates.”
Trump and his lawyers called the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago a “shockingly aggressive move,” saying the FBI searched the premises “with no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans.”
“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 over broad warrant,” the lawyers wrote, saying the raid was a “violation of his constitutional rights,” and demanded the records “be returned forthwith.”
“Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes,” the motion continues. “Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid on President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.”
Trump’s lawyers, in the motion, stated that the Justice Department “has informed counsel for President Trump that privileged and/or potentially privileged documents were among the items taken from his home.” Fox News first reported that agents seized privileged material last week.
“But the government has refused to provide any information regarding the nature of these documents,” the motion states, stressing that “protecting the integrity of these documents is important not only to” Trump, “but also to the institution of the Presidency.”
“Significantly, the Government has refused to provide President Trump with any reason for the unprecedented, general search of his home,” the motion states. “To date, the Government has failed to legitimize its historic decision to raid the home of a President who had been fully cooperative.”
Trump’s lawyers slammed Attorney General Merrick Garland, saying he was “faced with public backlash,” and took the “unheard-of step of announcing at a press conference that he was willing to release portions of a sealed search warrant application.”
Trump’s lawyers also slammed the Justice Department for “leaks to favored media outlets,” which have “provided ever-changing, and inaccurate, ‘justifications’ for the politicized conduct of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
“These unsupported ‘justifications’ by anonymous sources hint at a breakdown in communications between President Trump’s representatives and the Government, or that there developed a need to obtain a search warrant,” the motion states, adding that “the actual chronology of events clearly establishes that there was no ‘exigency’ for a forceful raid and there is no basis for keeping information about the raid from the public.”
Trump’s legal team said that in January 2022, Trump “voluntarily” asked the National Archives and Records Administration to come to Mar-a-Lago to receive 15 boxes of documents that had been brought by movers to Mar-a-Lago, so that they could be transferred to NARA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Trump’s legal team said that “sometime thereafter,” NARA employees “involved the White House and DOJ in the matter of the voluntarily returned 15 NARA Boxes.”
Trump was “contacted because the 15 NARA Boxes contained documents from his Administration that were protected by executive privilege.” Trump’s lawyers say they communicated with the White House, the DOJ and NARA regarding those matters.
On May 11, Trump “voluntarily accepted service of a grand jury subpoena addressed to the custodian of records for the Office of Donald J. Trump, seeking documents bearing classification markings.”
“President Trump determined that a search for documents bearing classification markings should be conducted—even if the marked documents had been declassified—and his staff conducted a diligent search of the boxes that had been moved from the White House to Florida.”
On June 2, Trump invited the FBI to Mar-a-Lago to “retrieve responsive documents.”
On June 3, Jay Bratt, the chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, came to Mar-a-Lago, accompanied by three FBI agents, according to the motion.
Trump’s lawyers said the former president greeted Bratt and the agents in the dining room at Mar-a-Lago.
“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,’” the motion states.
“Responsive documents were provided to the FBI agents. Mr. Bratt asked to inspect a storage room. Counsel for President Trump advised the group that President Trump had authorized him to take the group to that room,” Trump’s lawyers explain. “The group proceeded to the storage room, escorted by two Secret Service agents. The storage room contained boxes, many containing the clothing and personal items of President Trump and the First Lady.”
“When their inspection was completed, the group left the area. Once back in the dining room, one of the FBI agents said, ‘Thank you. You did not need to show us the storage room, but we appreciate it. Now it all makes sense,'” the motion states.
The motion states that counsel for Trump closed the interaction and “advised the Government officials that they should contact him with any further needs on the matter.”
Trump’s lawyers said that on June 8, Bratt requested that the storage room be secured. In response, Trump directed his staff to “place a second lock on the door to the storage room, and one was added.”
On June 22, according to the motion, the government sent a subpoena to the Custodian of Records for the Trump Organization “seeking footage from surveillance cameras at Mar-a-Lago.”
“At President Trump’s direction, service of that subpoena was voluntarily accepted, and responsive video footage was provided to the government,” the motion states.
“Despite the voluntary assistance provided by President Trump, the Government took the unprecedented step of requesting a search warrant for his home,” the motion states, adding that the government sought “an expansive and intrusive search” of Trump’s private residence.
Trump’s lawyers slammed Garland for the press conference he conducted days after the search, in which he said that the Justice Department “does not take such a decision lightly,” and stressed that “where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
“This public statement is deeply troubling, given that President Donald J. Trump is the clear frontrunner of the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary and in the 2024 General Election, should he decide to run,” the motion states. “The statement clearly suggests that the decision to raid Mar-a-Lago, a mere 90 days before the 2022 midterms elections, involved political calculations aimed at diminishing the leading voice in the Republican Party, President Trump.”
Trump’s lawyers raised “fundamental Fourth Amendment concerns,” which provides the right of the people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and on warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Trump’s team also slammed the warrant as “facially over broad.”
The motion also states that the government “has long treated President Donald J. Trump unfairly.”
“The FBI and DOJ have demonstrated a willingness to treat President Trump differently than any other citizen,” the motion states, citing the two years of the “noisy” Trump-Russia investigations and more.
Trump’s lawyers demanded a special master to review the records, stressing that a DOJ “filter team” “will not protect President Trump’s rights.”
“For the foregoing reasons, President Donald J. Trump respectfully requests that this Court issue an order that: appoints a Special Master; enjoins further review of seized materials by the Government until a Special Master is appointed; requires the Government to provide a more detailed Receipt for Property; and requires the Government to return any item seized that was not within the scope of the Search Warrant,” the motion concludes.
Trump lawyers Lindsey Halligan, James Trusty, and M. Evan Corcoran signed the motion.
Trump had indicated last week that he would file a major motion pertaining to the Fourth Amendment concerning the “illegal” break-in of his home.
“My rights, together with the rights of all Americans, have been violated at a level rarely seen before in our country,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social Post on Friday.
The search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club earlier this month to retrieve documents from his White House years was an unprecedented law enforcement action against a former president who is widely expected to run for office once again.
Officials have not revealed exactly what was contained in the boxes, but the FBI has said it recovered 11 sets of classified records, including some marked “sensitive compartment information,” a special category meant to protect secrets that could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to U.S. interests if revealed publicly.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley reacted to Trump’s filing Monday in a statement: “The Aug. 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause. The Department is aware of this evening’s motion. The United States will file its response in court.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the search warrant, formally ruled Monday that the Justice Department propose redactions to the original affidavit, so that he could review to determine whether it can be released to the public. Reinhart admitted the raid of Trump’s home was “unprecedented,” and cited “intense public and historical interest.”