A court-appointed “special master” tasked with reviewing the classifieds seized at Mar-a-Lago and recommended by Donald Trump’s legal team has pressed Trump to reveal information about whether the president declassified the documents as he claims he did. .
A letter from the Trump team to Judge Raymond Dearie, one of two names they sent to a Florida judge who ruled in their favor on obtaining a special master, reveals that Judge Dearie asked them to “disclose specific information about the declassification to the Court and the Government.’
That’s one place Trump’s legal team doesn’t want to go right now. Trump’s legal team has refused in legal filings to claim that Trump declassified the material, even though Trump has said publicly that he did.
In their filings, including one made Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers continue to refer only to “classified records,” suggesting that they may in fact not say so without stating so explicitly.
In a surprising statement, the team argued against the judge’s request, saying they do not want to be forced to “fully and specifically disclose a defense on the merits of any subsequent prosecution without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order.” “.
Raymond Dearie, a veteran New York judge, has been appointed special master to oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation. Trump’s team listed him among two recommendations for the job. According to one report, they believed he was an FBI skeptic.
That at least raises the possibility that they may want to use the declassification argument as a criminal defense in case Trump is charged with improper possession of national security information after he leaves office.
It also raises the possibility that Trump’s decision to obtain a special master, a move the administration strongly opposed saying it could harm national security interests by delaying an investigation, could backfire.
The Trump team also pushed back the timeline, “respectfully” suggesting that the “deadlines be extended,” in a process that will last through at least November as Dearie reviews some 11,000 documents to determine which ones the Trump team can keep away. of the researchers
It was the first sign of how Dearie, a Reagan appointee who has been on the bench for decades, would act. Lawyers for both sides clashed inside the Brooklyn judge’s courtroom on Tuesday.
Dearie will seek documents subject to attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, after Judge Cannon rejected the government’s argument that a former president could not make such a claim.
Former President Trump’s legal team, including Christopher M. Kise (center back), Jim Trusty (center right), Lindsey Halligan, Evan Corcoran (second right) arrive at the United States Courthouse, Brooklyn , New York for his first meeting with the ‘special Master’
Former President Trump’s legal team, including M. Evan Corcoran (left), Lindsey Halligan, in a legal filing resisted pressure from the judge for classification information.
Documents seized during the search of Trump’s estate on August 8 are shown on August 30. Trump’s lawyers have refused to say in the legal documents whether Trump had ordered them declassified while he was in office and had the authority.
Dearie signed the government surveillance warrant for former Trump associate Carter Page in a move Trump’s team believed could make him an FBI skeptic, Axios reported.
Trump’s lawyers have not said explicitly that he ordered the documents to be classified. They put ‘classified’ terms in quotation marks in legal documents
Protesters greeted Trump’s lawyers with signs, including one that read “nuclear secrets,” a reference to high-level classified material that the government said was seized from Mar-a-Lago.
It comes after Axios reported two days ago that Dearie’s role in FBI surveillance of former Trump associate Carter Page (Dearie signed the arrest warrant) had made him a “deep skeptic” of the FBI.
Trump has long complained about the surveillance at the start of the Russia investigation, calling it part of a “witch hunt” against him.
Dearie served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for seven years. But the report did not cite any statement in the public record where Dearie criticized the FBI.
Trump criticized the agency after a team of FBI agents swooped into Mar-a-Lago on August 8, when Trump was not present.
Officials at the National Archives determined that there were 150 documents marked classified in the first 15 boxes of material returned by Trump in January.
Justice Department officials recovered more documents in June and, following the FBI raid, obtained about 100 more, for a total of about 300 documents marked classified.
On Monday, the government provided Judge Dearie with a proposed agenda for their first meeting, as well as some of the mechanisms for how the special master will review the documents, even as the government appeals Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that gave authority to the special teacher. to sort through boxes of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago in the August 8 FBI raid.
The government would provide the seized documents to a vendor, who would scan them into a single file under FBI observation.