Trump sues US government over FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

The ex-president seeks to prevent bureau from reading seized documents until court official weighs in.

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Donald Trump on Monday filed suit against the US government over the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home, seeking to temporarily stop the bureau reading seized materials until a special court official can be appointed to review documents concerned.

As the Guardian reported on Saturday, citing Trump’s lead attorney, Jim Trusty, and two sources familiar with the matter, “the suit argues that the court should appoint a special master – usually a retired lawyer or judge – because the FBI potentially seized privileged materials in its search and the Department of Justice (DoJ) should not itself decide what it can use in its investigation”.

The suit, filed in US district court for the southern district of Florida, also “requires the government to provide a more detailed receipt for property; and … requires the government to return any item seized that was not within the scope of the search warrant”.

The Mar-a-Lago search, on 8 August, was mounted to look for official records and material from Trump’s presidency that the National Archives and DoJ believe was improperly taken from the White House when Trump left office.

It has been reported that the search was carried out under the Espionage Act, and that some material sought concerned nuclear weapons.

The search has generally been held to have added significantly to Trump’s legal jeopardy, which stretches from investigations of his business affairs in New York to investigations of his attempts to overturn election results.

Trump refused to admit defeat by Joe Biden in 2020, claiming widespread electoral fraud, a lie that stoked his incitement of the deadly attack on the US Capitol by his supporters on 6 January 2021.

Despite a series of public hearings held by a House committee investigating the attack on Congress and Trump’s election subversion, Trump’s grip on the Republican party remains strong.

The former president seized on the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago to claim mistreatment by the Biden administration, a stance backed by Republicans in Congress and the party’s electoral base.

The suit filed on Monday called the search “a shockingly aggressive move” with “no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans”. It laid out a partial view of how the search unfolded and alleged unfair actions by the DoJ.

Earlier on Monday, a federal judge considering an attempt by media organizations to unseal the warrant used to justify the search said he had not yet decided if the release of a redacted version would serve any useful purpose.

The judge, Bruce Reinhart, wrote: “I cannot say at this point that partial redactions will be so extensive that they will result in a meaningless disclosure, but I may ultimately reach that conclusion after hearing further from the government.”

The DoJ opposes release of the warrant, citing an ongoing investigation.

The suit Trump filed on Monday also sought to draw attention to his continued suggestions that he will soon announce another run for the White House.

“Politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice,” it said. “President Donald J Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary and in the 2024 general election, should he decide to run.

“Beyond that, his endorsement in the 2022 midterm elections has been decisive for Republican candidates.”

The suit also says: “Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes.”