Trump Lawyers Want a Special Master to Evaluate Mar-a-lago Documents

On Wednesday, attorneys for former President Donald Trump renewed their request that a federal judge appoint appoint an impartial “special master” to evaluate the records the FBI seized from Trump’s Florida property.

A day after the Department of Justice claimed that appointing a special master could undermine the government’s national security interests, the agency filed a narrowly tailored brief in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach.

The Department of Justice also claimed in its brief that “efforts were likely conducted to hinder the government’s investigation” into the documents that had been sent to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort after he had left office.

 

Trump Lawyers Want a Special Master to Evaluate Mar-a-lago Documents
Trump Lawyers Want a Special Master to Evaluate Mar-a-lago Documents

In addition, the FBI had earlier this month recovered over a hundred sensitive documents from the Palm Beach resort, as disclosed by the Department of Justice. The FBI also released a snapshot of documents discovered from a container in Trump’s “45 Office” that had classification markings blacked out.

On Wednesday night, Trump’s legal team responded to the DOJ’s motion for a special master, accusing it of trying to use “the framework of responding to a motion for a Special Master into an all-encompassing challenge to any judicial consideration, present or future, of any aspect of its unprecedented behavior in this investigation.”

The government’s “exceptional document” implies “that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be entrusted with the burden of reviewing its unreasonable pursuit of criminalizing a former President’s holding of personal and Presidential records in a secure location,” Trump’s lawyers argued.

They claimed that the DOJ made numerous “misleading or incomplete statement[s] of supposed ‘fact,'” but they provided no evidence to back up their claims.

Trump appointee Judge Aileen Cannon has scheduled a hearing for this Thursday at 1 p.m. ET in the West Palm Beach courthouse.

Trump filed suit to prevent the Justice Department from reviewing the Mar-a-Lago raid evidence before a special master has had a chance to examine it. When there is a potential that some evidence should be concealed from prosecutors due to certain legal protections, that measure is often taken.

On Monday, the DOJ informed the judge that its assessment of the seized materials was complete and that an enforcement team had uncovered a “small set” of materials that may be protected by attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege is a legal notion that guarantees privacy for any information exchanged between a lawyer and his or her client.

On Wednesday, Trump’s legal team countered that the purported privilege review team had failed to properly separate potentially privileged documents from the rest of the confiscated files.

In public statements, Trump and his office have stated that they declassified all of the FBI’s confiscated materials. However, Trump’s legal team has not made that specific argument in the civil case before Cannon.

Late Tuesday night, the Department of Justice filed that Trump “never asserted executive privilege over any of the documents” and “never claimed that any of the documents in the boxes containing classification markings had been declassified” when the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago in January.

On June 3, in response to a grand jury subpoena, FBI agents went to Mar-a-Lago to collect any more records in Trump’s possession that bore classified marks. According to the government, no claims concerning declassification were made during this time.

The FBI found evidence in May that dozens of boxes containing sensitive information remained at Trump’s property after the initial 15 boxes were removed in January, and the DOJ claims to have secured that subpoena as a result.

Counsel and the custodian made no claims of presidential privilege or declassification in delivering the papers. “Instead, counsel’s handling of the materials gave the appearance that counsel believed they were classified; the production comprised a single Redweld envelope double-wrapped in tape containing the documents,” the DOJ noted.

Additionally, Trump’s records custodian submitted a sworn certification statement stating that “any and all” materials responsive to the grand jury subpoena had been supplied, as stated by the DOJ.

According to the DOJ’s complaint, the FBI “uncovered various sources of evidence” that other classified papers were still at Mar-a-Lago.

The Department of Justice stated that “evidence was also collected showing government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely conducted to hinder the government’s inquiry.”

The government used this and other evidence to justify a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, which was executed on August 8.

Trump’s attorneys responded on Wednesday, claiming that the DOJ’s description of their conversation with the president on June 3 “has been dramatically mischaracterized.”

Attorneys for the ex-president argued that the Magistrate Judge was deceived if the government used the same false explanation in support of the search warrant.