Prosecutors in Documents Case Reject Trump’s Claims of Bias
Federal prosecutors pushed back on Friday against former President Donald J. Trump’s contention that his prosecution over the handling of classified documents was motivated by a longstanding bias against him among the intelligence agencies and other government officials.
The pushback by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, came in a 67-page court filing. The filing was intended to argue against Mr. Trump’s requests for additional discovery materials in the classified documents case.
When Mr. Trump’s lawyers made those requests for materials last month, they signaled that they planned to place accusations that the intelligence community and other members of the so-called deep state were biased against Mr. Trump at the heart of their defense.
But Mr. Smith’s team said that the former president’s requests for additional information were “based on speculative, unsupported, and false theories of political bias and animus.”
Some of Mr. Trump’s demands for discovery were so ambiguous “that it is difficult to decipher what they seek,” the prosecutors wrote, while others, they added, “reflect pure conjecture detached from the facts surrounding this prosecution.”
Discovery disputes can be contentious in criminal cases as defense lawyers push for as much information as they can get and prosecutors seek to limit access to materials that they believe are irrelevant.
But the discovery battles in the classified documents case and in Mr. Trump’s other federal case — in which he stands accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 election — have been particularly bitter. That is because his legal team has advanced a series of baseless claims that government officials acted improperly in an attempt to secure charges against Mr. Trump.
His lawyers have said, for instance, that officials at the National Archives — the agency in charge of handling presidential records — worked in collusion with the Biden administration to make what they described as a “sham” referral to the Justice Department that Mr. Trump should be investigated for holding on to classified documents.
But Mr. Smith’s prosecutors rejected those claims, arguing that the referral came only after “months of efforts” to get the documents back. They also accused Mr. Trump’s lawyers of seeking to “cast a cloud of suspicion over responsible actions by government officials diligently doing their jobs.”
“Put simply,” prosecutors wrote, “the government here confronted an extraordinary situation: a former president engaging in calculated and persistent obstruction of the collection of presidential records, which, as a matter of law, belong to the United States for the benefit of history and posterity, and, as a matter of fact, here included a trove of highly classified documents containing some of the nation’s most sensitive information.”
The filing traced the investigation from the discovery by officials at the archives of classification markings on more than 180 documents that Mr. Trump returned to the agency in early 2022 to a subsequent grand jury subpoena that was issued in May of that same year for all additional classified materials in the former president’s possession.
Ultimately, prosecutors said, two of Mr. Trump’s aides at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, helped move boxes containing classified documents in an effort to conceal the material from the government. That prompted investigators to step up their inquiry, prosecutors wrote, seizing various electronic devices, interviewing dozens of witnesses and eventually searching Mar-a-Lago and discovering another trove of classified material.
“The defendants’ narrative overlooks the fact that various federal agencies confronted, and appropriately responded to, an extraordinary situation resulting entirely from the defendants’ conduct,” prosecutors wrote.
Mr. Smith’s team reminded Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is overseeing the case in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., that the jury will be asked to consider only three questions: whether Mr. Trump “willfully retained” documents containing highly sensitive national defense information; whether he and his co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, conspired to obstruct the government’s inquiry into the records; and whether they made false statements to the F.B.I.
“The jury will not be asked to decide whether the investigation and prosecution of the case were ‘politically motivated and biased,’” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors also gave a sample of the exhaustive nature of their investigation of Mr. Trump.
They revealed, for the first time, that of the 48,000 guests who visited Mar-a-Lago between January 2021 and May 2022, when classified material was housed at the property in ballrooms and bathrooms, only 2,200 people had their names checked and only 2,900 passed through magnetometers.