GOP attorney general files amicus brief on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents

Texas’ Ken Paxton and 10 other Republican state attorneys general on Tuesday defended former President Donald Trump in a legal battle over documents seized by the FBI last month, filing a federal appeals court decision. An amicus brief said the Biden administration could not be trusted.

In a 21-page document that repeated many right-wing talking points but experts said little new legal basis was presented, officials accused the Biden administration of authorizing the FBI raid and politicizing the Justice Department in court on Aug. 8 .

The search, which stemmed from an investigation into whether Trump and his associates improperly obtained and held classified government documents, turned up a number of sensitive documents. Trump’s lawyers then asked a special master to examine about 100 documents and rule out those that might be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege. U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon granted the request and barred criminal investigators from using the material until a review is complete. The Justice Department challenged some of Cannon’s decision and asked the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to overturn her ruling.

The amicus brief urged the appeals court to dismiss the appeal. “Given Biden’s track record, coupled with his rhetoric demonizing anyone with whom he disagrees, the court must be on high alert [the Justice Department] There could be abuse of power to punish President Donald Trump,” Paxton, who led the effort, said in a statement Tuesday.

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The Utah attorney general’s office confirmed that the state had joined the amicus brief, but declined to comment further. Representatives for the other attorneys general did not respond to requests for comment.

Justice Department officials could not be immediately reached late Tuesday.

An amicus brief is a document submitted by parties not directly involved in a legal contest to inform judges of additional relevant information. But legal experts said the attorney general’s filing was more of a political document than a legal brief.

Attorneys general from Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia did not elaborate on what Trump was arguing The core legal issue — executive privilege and whether the documents found at his Florida estate are actually classified, according to executive privilege legal expert John Yoo, who reviewed the letter at the request of the Washington Post.

The term “executive privilege” is mentioned only once in the document, and the text provides no new information to help determine whether government documents found on Trump’s property are classified. The privilege is often used to protect the executive branch’s communications with Congress or the courts, not from agencies within the branch itself, such as the Justice Department.

Instead, Republican officials listed a series of grievances with the Biden administration, including how it handled immigration enforcement and its response to the coronavirus pandemic, that did not appear to be directly related to the case. They argue that the government’s “questionable conduct” in decision-making and litigation means courts should approach Justice Department appeals with caution.

Liu, who worked at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration, said the officials who signed the brief were “very good lawyers.” But the briefing was a political document that “just didn’t address any of the issues at stake,” he said.

Analysis: A Mar-a-Lago letter from the Republican attorney general is not as well seen

Paxton has previously used his office to intervene in court on behalf of Trump and other right-wing causes. In 2020, Texas sought to overturn a Joe Biden victory by suing Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court dismissed the case.

letter is “Certainly a political stunt,” said Jon D. Michaels, a UCLA law professor who studies presidential power. “Officials are playing at intense MAGA bases in their state,” he said.

Paxton’s office could not be immediately reached for comment late Tuesday.

Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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