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Special counsel defends investigators’ handling of Mar-a-Lago documents kept in ‘haphazard manner’ by Trump

By Tierney Sneed and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

(CNN) — Prosecutors with special counsel Jack Smith in a filing late Monday night pushed back on former President Donald Trump’s effort to toss the classified documents case against him over how materials found in boxes during the FBI’s 2022 Mar-a-Lago search were handled by investigators.

Prosecutors, with several never-before-seen images and a 30-page filing, detailed the search process and ridiculed Trump’s legal arguments.

“Trump personally chose to keep documents containing some of the nation’s most highly guarded secrets in cardboard boxes,” prosecutors wrote, “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 latest Trump bid to toss the case came after prosecutors acknowledged that some of the documents fell out of order within their individual boxes after they were seized by the government.  
Trump’s attorneys have previously argued that because the order of contents in boxes was changed, it impacts their ability to build a defense around when certain classified material was placed in each box, given where it was inside Mar-a-Lago and what documents – including news articles – were beside it.

The new filing from Smith’s team goes into granular detail about how the search was conducted, the protocols FBI agents followed, and how certain documents were taken out of the boxes and by whom.

The prosecutors highlighted how investigators found boxes with their contents spilled on the floor, which they also illustrated with photos taken by investigators and by one of Trump’s co-defendants.

Against this backdrop of the haphazard manner in which Trump chose to maintain his boxes” Trump argues that the precise order of the contents “was critical to his defense,” prosecutors said, ridiculing the argument.

To bolster their arguments, the prosecutors attached several new photos of the boxes, some of which were taken during the search. Two photos were taken by Trump co-defendant and valet Walt Nauta in December 2021, when he was moving boxes into Trump’s residence for review and found that some of the boxes had fallen. Other photos were taken during the search and prosecutors included some photos to show the news clippings, personal effects, and mementos that were found mixed in with sensitive government materials.

Prosecutors also say that the “integrity of each container in which the evidence was found, that is, box-to-box integrity” has been maintained.  
 “Nothing has been lost, much less destroyed, and there has been no bad faith,” they added.

To push back on defense attorneys’ claim that internal FBI emails suggested that the agents long knew there was an issue with how the boxes were seized, the prosecutors revealed what the emails actually concerned: that a witness discovered additional classified material at Mar-a-Lago the day after the August 2022 search.

Prosecutors argued that Trump’s previous remarks about the documents – including that he designated them his personal documents and declassified them – contradict the defense that the order of the documents would help prove that he was ignorant of the boxes’ contents.

“The Court should see Trump’s newly invented explanations and his motion for what they are—his latest unfounded accusations against law enforcement professionals doing their jobs,” they wrote.

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