Donald Trump launches lawsuit over FBI's Mar-a-Lago search

Former US President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

Donald Trump has kicked off a legal battle against the FBI over classified documents found at his Florida estate.

The former US President's lawyers have asked a federal judge to put the brakes on the bureau's review of documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

They are now calling for the appointment of a 'special master' who is not connected to the case to delve into the recovered records.

It is a move that, if granted, could permit the former leader to withhold certain communications from the public.

Police at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8. Credit: AP

Mr Trump is currently being investigated for potentially mishandling documents.

It follows a report from The New York Times that claimed more than 300 classified documents were seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate after he left office.

The number included more than 150 retrieved by the National Archives in January, triggering the criminal investigation.

Mr Trump, 76, has denied any wrongdoing.

Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida estate. Credit: AP

His lawsuit brands the August 8 search, in which the FBI said it recovered 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, as a “shockingly aggressive move."

It also suggests that the search was politically motivated.

The suit attacks the warrant - describing it as overly broad - and contends that Mr Trump is entitled to a more detailed description of the records seized from the home, while also arguing that the FBI and Justice Department have both long treated him “unfairly.”

"Law enforcement is a shield that protects America. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes," Mr Trump's lawyers wrote on Monday.

In a separate statement, Mr Trump said “ALL documents have been previously declassified.”

However, he has not produced evidence to support that claim and described the records as having been “illegally seized from my home."

The Justice Department countered in a statement pointing out that the search had been authorised by a federal judge after the FBI presented probable cause that a crime had been committed.

Timeline of investigation into Donald Trump

January 2022 - Some 15 boxes of White house records are sent from Mar-a-Lago to The National Archives, some of which are said to have been torn up.

February - Claims are put forward that classified files were found in the delivery from Mr Trump's estate and the National Archives asks the Department of Justice to investigate.

April - US media outlets report that the FBI has started a preliminary investigation into the documents and Mr Trump.

June 3 - A Department of Justice official and three FBI agents travel to Mr Trump's Florida estate to review items in a basement. Mr Trump claims he told them: "Whatever you need, just let us know"

June 8 - Mr Trump's aide is sent a letter asking that a stronger lock is needed to secure the room storing items.  

June 22 - A Department of Justice summons is sent to Mr Trump asking for CCTV footage from Mar-a-Lago.

August 8 - Dozens of agents begin a search and seizure operation at Mr Trump's estate. FBI staff leave with more than 20 boxes, some containing top secret documents, according to the warrant.  

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