Former President Donald J. Trump is claiming that nine documents seized by the F.B.I. from his Florida residence are his personal property — but the Justice Department says they are official records that should be deposited with the National Archives, according to a new letter to the special master who is overseeing a review of the materials.
The letter, filed on Thursday by the Justice Department, describes disputes over ownership and executive privilege claims involving a batch of 15 records that have undergone early review. It likely foreshadows larger fights to come over the main bulk of roughly 13,000 documents and other materials F.B.I. agents took from Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s club and residence, in a court-authorized search in August.
The materials from the initial tranche that Mr. Trump maintains belong to him include six packages submitted to him when he was president supporting requests that he grant clemency to pardon-seekers; two documents related to his administration’s immigration policies; and an email addressed to him from a person at a military academy, it said.
But the Justice Department, in its letter, scoffed at the notion that any of those materials belong to Mr. Trump. It cited the Presidential Records Act, which says all documentary materials created or received by a president, his staff or his office in the course of official activities are government property that should go to the National Archives when a president leaves office.
Of the pardon packages, for example, the Justice Department wrote: “Those requests were received by plaintiff in his capacity as the official with authority to grant reprieves and pardons, not in his personal capacity.” [Continue reading…]