Special counsel criticizes Trump for storing national secrets amid ‘cluttered collection of keepsakes’

Special counsel criticizes Trump for storing national secrets amid ‘cluttered collection of keepsakes’
Department of Justice

(WASHINGTON) — In an overnight court filing in Donald Trump’s classified documents case, special counsel Jack Smith defended the August 2022 search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate, following Trump’s lawyers’ request to dismiss the case on the basis that some of the documents were shuffled around during the search.

The new filing, which comes as the judge overseeing the case, Aileen Cannon, hears arguments today on defense requests to have the case dismissed, provides perhaps the most detailed account of the search and the state of Trump’s boxes that were seized by the FBI — including never-before-seen photos of some of the boxes to illustrate how Trump stored his materials.

“Trump personally chose to keep documents containing some of the nation’s most highly guarded secrets in cardboard boxes along with a collection of other personally chosen keepsakes of various sizes and shapes from his presidency — newspapers, thank-you notes, Christmas ornaments, magazines, clothing, and photographs of himself and others,” the filing says.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 40 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information and took steps to thwart the government’s efforts to get the documents back. Trump has denied all charges and denounced the probe as a political witch hunt.

“At the end of his presidency, he took his cluttered collection of keepsakes to Mar-a-Lago, his personal residence and social club, where the boxes traveled from one readily accessible location to another — a public ballroom, an office space, a bathroom, and a basement storage room,” Tuesday’s filing said.

The boxes’ lack of organization — and Trump’s detailed familiarity with their contents — prompted some of his staff to call them the “Beautiful Mind” boxes, referring to the film of the same title about genius mathematician John Nash, according to prosecutors.

Trump’s lawyers claim the boxes were not preserved in the exact manner in which they were found, and claim the evidence has been tampered with. However, the special counsel argued in the filing that Trump’s “cluttered collection of keepsakes” and “the haphazard manner” in which the items were stored allowed the contents of the boxes to shift anytime they were moved. The special counsel says the contents of the boxes didn’t change at all, despite some items perhaps moving within the boxes.

“Because the boxes were a mix of items and contained many small, loose materials and papers of various sizes and shapes, items within them necessarily shifted around anytime they were moved,” the filing said.

In the filing, the special counsel details the cautious nature of the FBI agents who were tasked with searching the boxes — both for privileged materials and classified documents.

“However, once agents saw the state in which Trump kept his boxes, it became apparent that maintaining the exact order of all documents and items within the boxes was nigh impossible given the variety of document shapes and sizes (newspapers, photographs, magazines, loose cards and notes, envelopes, etc.), and the presence of other non-documentary items like clothing, framed pictures, and other keepsakes,” the filing says.

Prosecutors argue in the filing that the recent defense arguments about the conditions of the boxes are “newly invented explanations” and Trump’s “latest unfounded accusations against law enforcement professionals doing their jobs.”

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