Judge to Unseal Fbi Mar-a-lago Seizure List, Delaying Special Master Ruling

At a hearing on Thursday, a federal judge in Florida announced that she would unseal a more comprehensive list of the things the FBI took during their raid on former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8.

A progress report from the inquiry team looking into whether or not Trump administration officials removed documents from the White House after he left office will also be made public by Judge Aileen Cannon in early 2021.

Judge to Unseal Fbi Mar-a-lago Seizure List, Delaying Special Master Ruling
Judge to Unseal Fbi Mar-a-lago Seizure List, Delaying Special Master Ruling

Cannon adjourned the hearing without making a decision on Trump’s request for the appointment of a special master to evaluate government papers collected by the FBI before the Department of Justice is permitted to utilize the records to forward its investigation.

Trump made this request in a lawsuit he filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Cannon has said she will make a decision on it later.

Trump’s legal team had asked for a more comprehensive inventory of the materials seized at Mar-a-Lago than the one they had previously obtained from investigators, which was less revealing.

The Department of Justice is fighting the appointment of a special master on the grounds that it will unreasonably stall the agency’s criminal probe.

The Justice Department has also stated that its own internal watchdogs have reviewed the materials and found some records that could be excluded from inclusion in the probe due to attorney-client privilege.
Separately on Thursday, Cannon ruled that she will not release the progress report that the Department of Justice’s “filter team” has been working on.

At the hearing, top DOJ counterintelligence official Jay Bratt claimed that Trump is no longer the president and therefore is not entitled to a review of the materials by a special master.

Also, “he had no right access such materials because he is no longer the president,” Bratt said.
If there is a chance that some of the records obtained by law enforcement should be prohibited from use in an investigation because they are protected by attorney-client privilege, a special master, often picked from the ranks of retired judges, is typically appointed.

However, Trump’s legal team claims that some of the documents may be shielded by executive privilege due to Trump’s status as president when they were generated.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice said in a court filing that during the August 8 raid, agents discovered more than 100 secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Two months before that, in response to a federal grand jury subpoena, Trump’s attorneys had certified under oath that a search of Trump’s residence and office had turned up no classified documents.

According to the document filed on Tuesday, there is evidence that government data, including those designated classified, were likely concealed and removed from a storage room at that property in an effort to “obstruct the government’s investigation.”

After Trump left the White House in January 2021, authorities say the National Archives and Records Administration tried for over a year to retrieve materials it suspected were still in his possession. Due to the discovery of highly secret information in the 15 boxes of data that Trump turned over from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, the DOJ opened an investigation, and the raid on August 8 was carried out.

According to Trump, the documents were all declassified before he left office. However, under criminal laws that the DOJ is investigating in the case, including the espionage act and obstruction of justice, it makes little difference whether or not the materials stay secret.

When a president leaves office, he or she must comply with a legal requirement that all White House documents be transferred to NARA.

On Thursday, Trump’s lawyer Jim Trusty used an analogy that has gained traction among supporters of the former president in discussions about the records at issue.

As reported by NBC News, Trusty likened the situation to that of a library fine for a book that was overdue, saying, “We’ve characterized it at times as an overdue library book scenario where there’s a dispute — not even a dispute — but ongoing negotiations with [the National Archives] that have suddenly been transformed into a criminal investigation.”

The fact that a grand jury subpoena had been issued for the files was left out of Trusty’s story.