Legal and political experts said Donald Trump made a self-inflicted blunder when he pushed for a special master to review the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, which allowed the Department of Justice to address his claims in a 36-page document filed shortly before midnight on Tuesday, which included 18 pages of exhibits including a photo of documents with highly classified control labels.
"I have read the entire Government filing. I spend all day, every day, litigating against the Government, so some of this is familiar stuff to see. This particular brief is very well-done," attorney Bradley Moss tweeted.
"To sum it up, Trump took plainly marked classified records to [Mar-a-Lago], he delayed, obstructed and resisted Government efforts to recover them, he (or his staff) concealed the records from investigators, and they got caught doing so," Moss explained.
Former Deputy Assistant AG Harry Litman summarized DOJ's arguments.
"Facts (11 pages): Trump's assertion he cooperated is a joke; in fact he delayed access repeatedly," Litman wrote. "Law: (20 pages): first principles: these are not his records. He has no legal entitlement to challenge anything."
"Once again, Trump hoist on his own petard," Litman wrote. "The DOJ 's justification for a fairly full new factual recitation is that Trump went running to another court that hadn't reviewed the affidavit and needs facts--which we get too--showing that claim of having been cooperative is bogus."
"More evidence Trump disobeyed subpoena and concealed more docs," wrote attorney Ryan Goodman.
He noted Trump's push for a special master, "opened the door for DOJ to publicly correct the record in a response brief. Trump's legal team, and their client, again with self-inflicted wounds."
Attorney and Vox writer Ian Millhiser agreed.
"If I were Trump’s lawyers, I would not have filed a motion seeking a fairly minor form of relief, knowing full well that this motion would give the notoriously taciturn DOJ an opportunity to lay out much of its criminal case to a public that is still forming its opinion about it," Millhiser wrote.
Journalist Kurt Eichenwald wrote, "Of the many mistakes Trump has made in life, the biggest one was filing this motion for a special master, because it opened the door for DOJ to unload on him in its response and reveal how he engaged in criminal obstruction of justice by lying in response to a grand jury subpoena."
"Robert Mueller danced around clearly implicating Trump in obstruction of justice," wrote Trump biographer Tim O'Brien. "The DOJ filing tonight has no such hesitation — it’s a legal battering ram that lays out a clear pattern of obstruction."
Attorney Teri Kanefield wrote, "Just to point out the obvious: Trump keeps lying to the FBI and when he filed his lawsuit, he lied to the court. Here's where the DOJ says, oh and by the way, Trump lied when he told you that the search was to enforce the Presidential Records Act."
Trump's filing may have even implicated more people.
"DOJ suggests Trump counsel and Trump custodian — understood to be Christina Bobb — committed obstruction by representing that all docs from WH were in one storage location when they weren’t, and that all docs were turned over in response to subpoena when they weren’t," journalist Hugo Lowell reported.
Civil rights attorney Matthew Segal said, "I struggle to understand how in the year 2022 anyone is still vouching for any factual claims on behalf of Donald Trump, let alone doing so in a signed certification to the FBI and DOJ."
Defense attorney Sara Azari concluded, "Trump is screwed."
But for some, the filing raised even more questions.
"After reading the DOJ's Response tonight, I'm even more intrigued about how the FBI found out that there were more classified records at MAL, including outside of the storage room. All of which led to the search warrant being obtained," former prosecutor Katie Phang noted. "Who ratted on Trump to the Feds?"
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