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Talk Ain't Cheap

Trump, lawyers complain DOJ 'gratuitously' released photo of top secret files 'strewn' over Trump's floor

The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a court document detailing its evidence that former President Donald Trump and his lawyers mishandled classified government documents, then criminally obstructed the government's investigation by concealing the documents from the FBI and signing a sworn statement in June falsely claiming all classified documents had been returned. In the Aug. 8 search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, the DOJ said, FBI agents found more than 100 documents with classified markings in a club storage room and Trump's office. 

Three of Trump's lawyers responded Wednesday by arguing that the Justice Department overreacted by searching Mar-a-Lago, and they seemed especially irritated by the photo the DOJ included in its filing of top secret documents arranged on the floor of Trump's office. "The government's response gratuitously included a photograph of allegedly classified materials, pulled from a container and spread across the floor for dramatic effect," Trump's lawyers complained. 

A fourth Trump lawyer, Alina Habba, suggested on Fox News Wednesday night that the FBI staged the photo to "give you this appearance that you walk in and there's these top secret documents just strewn about," when that's "not the way his office looks." Trump "has guests frequently there," she added — which, observers noted, may not be the best defense for Trump.

Trump himself hit the same note in a Truth Social post Wednesday, seemingly conceding he knew he had "secret" documents in his office but insisting he didn't keep them "haphazardly all over the floor."

The Justice Department said the top secret files in the photo were "recovered from a container" and "desks" in Trump's office. "It is standard practice for the FBI to take evidentiary pictures of materials recovered in a search to ensure that items are properly cataloged and accounted for," The New York Times explains, and these documents are clearly "splayed out so they can be separately identified by their markings." None of the files has the "explicit markings" that typically show a file has been declassified, the Times adds.

The government's case doesn't rest on the classification level of the documents, and in Wednesday's filing, "Trump's legal team notably avoided echoing" Trump's assertion he had declassified them, Politico reports. In fact, in making their case for a federal judge to appoint a "special master" to filter out privileged files, CNN notes, Trump's lawyers write "it would be appropriate for the special master to possess a Top Secret/SCI security clearance."