Former President Donald Trump claims clemency requests that were seized by the FBI from his Florida estate are his personal property and should be returned to him.
Trump and the Justice Department asked a court-appointed special master to resolve their dispute over a half dozen documents related to requests for reduced sentences or pardons, with the government claiming they’re presidential records.
“Those requests were received by plaintiff in his capacity as the official with authority to grant reprieves and pardons, not in his personal capacity,” the government said in a filing Thursday in Florida.
The government is investigating whether Trump broke any laws by taking presidential records with him after leaving office instead of handing them over to the National Archives.
The dispute is a window into the detailed review of about 11,000 documents U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie is undertaking. Trump won the appointment of Dearie as the special master to rule on disputes over what was seized as part of a criminal probe into Trump’s handling of White House records.
Christopher Kise, one of Trump’s lawyers, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Other documents that Trump and the government disagree on relate to immigration initiatives and the president’s powers under the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to the filing. Another disputed record is a printed e-mail from someone at a military academy addressed to Trump in his official capacity “about the academy’s sports program and its relationship to martial spirit.”
The Justice Department also criticized Trump for attempting to assert executive privilege over documents that he also claims are personal, and pushed back on the former president’s criticism of personal items being seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago.
“Personal records that are not government property are seized every day for use in criminal investigations,” the government said in a footnote of the filing. “And the fact that more than 100 documents bearing classification markings were commingled with unclassified and even personal records is important evidence in the government’s investigation in this case.”
The case is Trump v. United States of America, 9:22-cv-81294, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).
—With assistance from Zoe Tillman.