Former President Donald Trump is claiming that records, such as clemency requests, that were kept at Mar-a-Lago are his personal property and shouldn’t be handed back to the federal government, the Justice Department said in a court filing late Thursday.
The filing only addresses a dispute over 15 documents but it demonstrates the potential legal slog ahead given there are roughly 22,000 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 where he said that DOJ misdescribed the nature of the disagreement between the parties.
Six of the documents described by DOJ are clemency requests Trump received while he was President. Two documents relate to immigration and border control laws, presidential powers and initiatives, prosecutors said.
One document is a “printed e-mail message from a person at one of the military academies addressed to the President in his official capacity about the academy’s sports program and its relationship to martial spirit. The message relates at a minimum to the ‘ceremonial duties of the President’ if not to his Commander-in-Chief powers,” the filing says.
Trump’s team has categorized those as personal records, while the federal government says they are presidential records – not Trump’s to keep, and not able to be protected by Trump with any executive privilege claim. On Friday, Trump told Dearie he was asserting executive privilege over three of the documents that had been identified as clemency materials.
Dearie previously said in a phone call with the parties he was having trouble squaring how Trump could claim some documents were both personal and protected by executive privilege. Four records are in that category among Thursday’s list of 15.
Trump’s attorneys replied, saying that the Justice Department’s account of the 15 documents was “not fully accurate” and that they plan to file a full response Monday. However, Dearie instructed the Trump team that the deadline for such a filing was Friday.
Trump’s team and the Justice Department will continue to work through much of the 22,000 records over the coming month, and Dearie is set to make determinations by mid-December.
This story has been updated with additional developments.