According to court docs unsealed on Friday, the FBI found over 11,000 government documents and images when they searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida resort on August 8. They also found 48 empty files designated “classified.”
A day after hearing arguments from Trump’s lawyers and the top two counterintelligence prosecutors at the Justice Department, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach unsealed the confiscated files so that a privilege assessment could be conducted.
Cannon agreed to unseal two records filed by the Justice Department, but she did not rule immediately on whether to appoint a special master.
William Barr, Trump’s former nominee for attorney general, has questioned the wisdom of the move.
In an interview with Fox News, Barr said, “I think at this level, since they’ve (FBI) already gone over the records I think it’s a waste of time” to have a special master.
After Trump’s bogus allegations that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him were exposed, Barr resigned in late December 2020.
Barr stated during the interview that he did not believe there was a “legitimate cause” for Trump to keep confidential documents at his Florida residence.
In addition, he said “I have serious doubts about Trump’s assertion that he has “declassified everything.” Because first, I find it exceedingly doubtful, and second, if he stood over dozens of boxes without knowing what was inside and said, “I hereby declassify everything in here,” that would be such a misuse and display such recklessness that it’s almost worse than removing the documents themselves.”
As part of its ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump illegally retained national defense information and tried to obstruct the probe, the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in February and March, finding 33 boxes and other items. One of the records, released on Friday, provides some additional detail about these items.
It demonstrates that papers marked for classification were occasionally mixed up with other materials including books, periodicals, and newspaper clippings.
If Cannon agrees to appoint a special master to come in and undertake an independent third-party assessment of the seized information, the Justice Department’s criminal probe might be put on hold.
At the hearing on Thursday, Cannon gave indications that, even if a special master is appointed, she could be ready to allow U.S. intelligence authorities to continue studying the data as part of their national security damage assessment.
Before the FBI attempted to obtain secret materials from Trump’s home in June, the Justice Department claimed in court filings that it had proof that the records had been purposely hidden from the agency.
The Department of Justice is likewise against appointing a special master, arguing that Trump has no legal standing to assert executive privilege over the papers at issue.