Trump lawyers say Justice Department document investigation has 'spiralled out of control'

Justice Department has wrongfully sought to criminalise former president, lawyers say in court filing

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Lawyers for Donald Trump on Monday opposed a US Justice Department request to continue reviewing classified documents seized by the FBI during the agency's August raid on the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Slamming the government investigation as “unprecedented and misguided”, Mr Trump's lawyers asked District Judge Aileen Cannon to uphold the assigning of a special master to review the roughly 100 classified documents and thousands of other records taken during the FBI's search.

“In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiralled out of control, the government wrongfully seeks to criminalise the possession by the 45th president of his own presidential and personal records,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing.

“The government should therefore not be permitted to skip the process and proceed straight to a preordained conclusion.”

Court records have shown that Mr Trump is being investigated for potentially violating three federal laws related to mishandling records after leaving office last year.

The Justice Department's investigation hit a snag last week when Ms Cannon granted Mr Trump's request to appoint a special master. The Justice Department has asked her to lift that hold and threatened to appeal her ruling to a federal appeals court.

The department said the investigation would be irreparably harmed if the order was not lifted.

In asking Ms Cannon to leave her order in place, Mr Trump's lawyers said it would be a “sensible preliminary step towards restoring order from chaos”.

His lawyers also said there was no indication that any of the “purported records” had been disclosed to anyone.

The Justice Department has argued that Mr Trump does not have the right to a special master review. Appointing one would be unprecedented because the records belong to the government and not to him, prosecutors argued.

Mr Trump's lawyers contend that, as a former president, he has an “unfettered right” to presidential records.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: September 13, 2022, 5:04 AM