Former President Donald Trump says records, such as clemency petitions, that were kept at Mar-a-Lago are his personal property and should not be returned to the federal government, the Justice Department said in a statement. a file filed Thursday evening.
The filing only deals with a dispute over 15 documents, but it demonstrates the potential legal slowness ahead given that there are around 22,000 in total to review. Trump said later Thursday that the department’s log was inaccurate, and on Friday he filed a submission pointing to seven documents in which he said the DOJ had misrepresented the nature of the disagreement between the parties.
Special Counsel Raymond Dearie is examining Trump’s executive privilege claims over the documents, which were seized from the former president’s Florida home in August.
Six of the documents described by the DOJ are clemency petitions Trump received while he was president. Two documents relate to immigration and border control laws, presidential powers and initiatives, prosecutors said.
A document is “a printed electronic message from a person at one of the military academies to the President in his official capacity regarding the academy’s athletic program and its relationship to the martial spirit. The message pertains to the president’s “ceremonial duties” at a minimum, if not his powers as commander-in-chief,” the filing said.
Trump’s team classified them as personal records, while the federal government says they are presidential records – not for Trump to keep and cannot be protected by Trump with any claim of executive privilege. On Friday, Trump told Dearie he was asserting executive privilege over three of the documents that had been identified as clemency documents.
Dearie previously said in a phone call with the parties that he struggled to understand how Trump could claim certain documents were both personal and protected by executive privilege. Four records are in this category among Thursday’s list of 15.
Trump’s attorneys responded, saying the Justice Department’s account of the 15 documents was “not entirely accurate” and that they planned to file a full response on Monday. However, Dearie told the Trump team that the deadline for such a filing was Friday.
Trump’s team and the Justice Department will continue to work on much of the 22,000 cases over the coming month, and Dearie is expected to make decisions by mid-December.
This story has been updated with additional developments.