Donald Trump’s lawyers have admitted in a court filing that the twice-impeached former president could face federal criminal charges for illegally taking more than 100 classified, government-owned documents to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and lying about it.
In court documents submitted before Raymond Dearie, the New York-based federal judge who has been appointed to review the more than 11,000 documents seized during the 8 August search of Trump’s property and determine whether any are privileged, the lawyers representing the former president said they would object to Dearie’s plan for determining whether any of the 100 documents which bear classification markings are privileged because it would require them to say whether Trump actually declassified them.
“The Draft Plan requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government. We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property,” they wrote. “Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order”.
The reference to “any subsequent indictment” is the first acknowledgment from Trump’s legal team that his hoarding of top secret documents could lead to criminal charges for violating laws governing the proper care and storage of national defense information or prohibiting obstruction of justice.
Before Dearie was appointed as a special master, Trump and his allies had claimed on numerous occasions that he issued sweeping declassification orders which negate the classification markings on the myriad documents that were recovered from his home and office in a court-authorized search.
But Trump’s attorneys have not specifically raised that defense in any court filing or appearance thus far, which legal experts say is an indicator that no such order was ever issued or carried out. If an attorney makes a knowingly false statement in court, he or she could lose his or her law license.
In response to the filing, national security lawyer Brad Moss said that “Part of the reason Judge Dearie is doing this is I’m sure he saw what order he was given from Judge Cannon. I’m sure he looked at the filing and said ‘enough is enough, I’m not dancing around this,'” said Moss. “It’s really simple. Either you’ve got the evidence or you don’t.”
Moss added that “Trump will have to produce the affidavit that the documents were declassified to prove the documents could even be taken outside of the Oval Office, much less the White House.”