Five Key Points in Donald Trump's Lawsuit Suing DOJ Over Mar-a-Lago Search

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Department of Justice over the recent FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

In their filing with the U.S. District Court in Florida, Trump's attorneys argued that the government had provided no reason for the search of the former president's residence and the search raised questions about his Fourth Amendment rights.

Trump's attorneys have also asked for the appointment of a special master as a way to protect the former president's rights.

Here are five key points from Trump's lawsuit.

Donald Trump Speaks at CPAC in Texas
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Trump has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice over the recent search at Mar-a-Lago. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

1. Appointing a Special Master

Trump's attorneys are asking the court to appoint a special master in order to protect the former president's constitutional rights and oversee the process of reviewing documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

A special master—who is sometimes a retired judge—can be appointed "by a court to carry out some sort of action on its behalf," according to Cornell University's Legal Information Institute.

Such an appointment is sometimes made in highly sensitive cases and the special master is asked to review seized materials in order to make sure investigators do not view privileged information.

In this case, Trump's attorneys argue that some of the documents taken in the FBI search are "presumptively privileged" because they entail presidential communication with advisers and that the FBI cannot be trusted to protect the former president's rights.

2. Preventing FBI from Reviewing Documents

Trump's attorneys have asked the court to prevent the FBI from reviewing the documents until a decision is made about a special master.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is already using a "filter team" to review the documents in order to make sure investigators don't see materials that should not have been taken in the search.

Trump's attorneys said this was not enough.

"It is unreasonable to allow the prosecutorial team to review them without meaningful safeguards," their filing said.

"Short of returning the seized items to the movant [Trump], only a neutral review by a special master can protect the 'great public interest' in preserving 'the confidentiality of conversations that take place in the president's performance of his official duties,'" his attorneys wrote.

3. Fourth Amendment Rights

The former president's attorneys argue that the search at Mar-a-Lago raises questions under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires that warrants be issued "under probable cause."

The filing argues that "the scant information the Government has provided—a vaguely-worded Receipt For Property and the warrant itself—raises significant Fourth Amendment questions about this unprecedented an necessary raid."

The filing seeks a more detailed Receipt For Property and the former president also pointed to the inventory provided by the DOJ in a statement published on his Truth Social site on Monday, calling for the release of a "REAL" inventory "without 'plants.'"

Trump's attorneys have also said that the government "refused to provide President Trump with any reason for the unprecedented, general search of his home."

They criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for his press conference following the raid where he announced that he had authorized the request for the search warrant himself. The attorneys also took aim at what they called "leaks to favored media outlets have provided ever-changing, and inaccurate, 'justifications' for the politicized conduct of the FBI and Department of Justice."

4. 'Shockingly Aggressive' Raid

Trump's attorneys described the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago on August 8 as a "shockingly aggressive move" that had been carried out "with no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans."

The raid was conducted by "roughly two dozen" FBI special agents, the filing said, and that those agents had seized documents, such as Trump's passports, "that were outside the lawful reach of an already overbroad warrant."

"Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans," the attorneys wrote. "It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes."

5. Thwarting Trump from Running in 2024

The court filing makes repeated references to the 2024 presidential election and notes that Trump is widely seen as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Trump's attorneys wrote that the appearance of an item labeled "Executive
Grant of Clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr" in the Receipt For Property "suggests that DOJ simply wanted the camel's nose under the tent so they could rummage for either politically helpful documents or support other efforts to thwart President Trump from running again, such as the January 6 investigation."

That echoes what Trump and some his Republican allies have said about the raid. The former president has characterized the FBI search as politically motivated and as part of a years' long effort to damage him.

The request for a special master has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee. It remains to be seen if the former president's application will be successful.

The DOJ said in a statement on Monday that the search "was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause."