The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it found evidence to suggest that documents removed from the White House when Donald Trump left office were later concealed at his Florida home to obstruct a federal investigation into their whereabouts.
A Trump lawyer “explicitly prohibited” FBI agents from looking in boxes in a storage room at Trump’s property during a June search, the department said in a court filing.
“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,” the department argued in a filing in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida.
The Justice Department’s filings come ahead of a Thursday court hearing before U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach. She is weighing Trump’s request to appoint a special master who would conduct a privilege review of the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, many of which are labeled as classified.
A special master is an independent third party sometimes appointed by a court in sensitive cases to review materials potentially covered by attorney-client privilege to ensure investigators do not improperly view them.
A special master was appointed, for instance, in the searches of the homes and offices of two of Trump’s former attorneys: Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen.
In Trump’s initial request to the court, his attorneys claimed that the former president wanted to protect materials that were subject to a legal doctrine known as executive privilege, which can shield some presidential communications.
But legal experts called that argument into question, saying it was nonsensical for a former president to claim he wanted to assert executive privilege against the executive branch itself.