Trump lawyers ask House GOP for ‘legislative solution’ to block classified documents probe

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Lawyers for former president Donald Trump have asked the Republican-led House of Representatives to intervene by enacting a new law to protect the twice-impeached former president from the Department of Justice probe into his alleged unlawful retention of classified documents and his alleged efforts to obstruct that investigation.

In a letter to Ohio Representative Mike Turner, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, attorneys Timothy Parlatore, John Rowley and James Trusty claim the Department of Justice — the executive branch department charged with investigating and prosecuting federal crimes — is “not the appropriate agency to conduct investigations pertaining to the mishandling or spillage of classified material” and allege that the department’s handling of the probe into Mr Trump’s alleged misconduct “is antithetical to the principles of a fair and impartial search for the truth”.

They claim that it is “abundantly clear through this investigation that the institutional practice and procedures within the White House for the handling of classified materials drastically differ from the long-established standard operating procedures employed by various agencies of the intelligence community as well as the US military” and urge enactment of “a legislative solution by Congress” to “prevent the DOJ from continuing to conduct ham-handed criminal investigations of matters that are inherently not criminal”.

“The solution to these issues is not a misguided, politically infected, and severely botched criminal investigation, but rather a legislative solution,” they said, adding that Congress should use its authority to order the Department of Justice to “stand down”.

Mr Trump’s lawyers also allege that the Justice Department acted improperly by using a grand jury subpoena to compel Mr Trump to return any classified documents in his possession, and claim that the ex-president is being treated unfairly because the department sought a search warrant after Mr Trump failed to comply with the subpoena while allowing attorneys for President Joe Biden and former vice president Mike Pence to conduct searches for classified documents at their respective homes.

“By unleashing a grand jury subpoena, DOJ intended to put President Trump on the defensive, not to invite his cooperation,” they said, adding later that the “unnecessarily aggressive use of a grand jury subpoena was not intended to ensure full compliance” but instead was meant to “manufacture conflict”.

They further argue that prosecutors misled the federal magistrate judge who authorised the 8 August 2022 search of Mr Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida property by allegedly concealing that Mr Trump had offered to allow a voluntary search of the property, and suggest that the department’s involvement — which was triggered by a referral from National Archives and Records Administration officials who discovered classified materials among boxes returned by Mr Trump in early 2022 — “improperly predetermined that the matter should be handled as a criminal investigation”.

The Justice Department “needlessly ratcheted up the adversarial nature of the matter, resulting in a waste of time and resources and a disturbing loss of public trust. This serves no legitimate purpose, as DOJ’s actions further erode constitutional rights while blindly compromising its own ability to provide a comprehensive account of what happened,” they said.

“From the inception of this matter, rather than working cooperatively to ensure the return of all marked documents and correct any procedural failures, the DOJ team chose a path of aggressive combativeness. In doing so, it compromised the evidence, constitutional rights, and, in many instances, the professional ethics of its prosecutors. It has sought to criminalize a civil matter, pursue an unprecedented investigation of a former President while bristling at transparency, and is desperately seeking to justify its abominable conduct”.

Since Mr Trump revealed that the FBI was searching his Palm Beach home and office on 8 August of last year, numerous GOP figures have called for the FBI to be stripped of federal funding. Mr Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have also argued for a “purge” of the FBI and Justice Department to remove any officials or civil servants deemed disloyal to him.

Prominent GOP lawmakers have previously suggested that Congress enact new laws to protect Mr Trump from the myriad criminal probes into his conduct.

In the wake of Mr Trump’s indictment on more than 30 felony charges by a New York City grand jury, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, and House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil said the GOP-led House could consider legislation to prevent state and local prosecutors from bringing criminal charges against former presidents.

In a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the Republican committee chairs said Congress has “a specific and manifestly important interest in preventing politically motivated prosecutions of current and former Presidents by elected state and local prosecutors, particularly those tried before elected state and local trial-level judges”.

They added that as a result of Mr Bragg’s decision to charge Mr Trump, the House Judiciary Committee would “consider whether to draft legislation that would, if enacted, insulate current and former presidents from such improper state and local prosecutions”.

In addition to the case against him in New York and the federal probe into his alleged unlawful retention of classified documents, Mr Trump also faces the possibility of indictment in two other investigations.

The Justice Department special counsel overseeing the documents probe, Jack Smith, is also supervising a grand jury hearing evidence regarding Mr Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss and the January 6 attack on the Capitol that occurred as a result of the ex-president’s actions.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is also presenting evidence to a grand jury regarding Mr Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia officials into reversing his 2020 loss to Mr Biden in that state, as well as efforts to submit forged electoral college certificates to the National Archives. Ms Willis has said indictments in that matter could be handed down as soon as this summer.