The special master review of documents seized from Donald’s Mar-a-Lago resort isn’t going great for Trump.
Arguing before a Trump-picked federal judge, the ex-president’s legal team sought and successfully obtained the selection of a so-called special master for dealing with documents seized in last month’s FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. (A special master is basically a third-party expert appointed by the court for a particular set of tasks.) Not only that, but Trump also got one of his own side’s proposed picks named to fill the position after the Justice Department agreed to the name (Reagan-nominated federal Judge Raymond Dearie). As the special master’s review of the situation moves forward, the former president also secured a temporary delay of the progression of the investigation that led to the raid, at least as it directly relates to the seized materials, which include highly guarded government secrets that federal authorities were trying to recover over Trump’s resistance. And now Dearie is suggesting he might go with the Justice Department’s arguments about the classification status of disputed docs from the raid.
The problem — well, one of the problems — is that Trump isn’t presenting proof for claims the materials were declassified. Broadly, his side is questioning the idea he even needs to come up with such proof, trying to use the notion he could have declassified the materials as enough. “The government again presupposes that the documents it claims are classified are, in fact, classified and their segregation is inviolable,” a Trump team legal filing in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals says. “However, the government has not yet proven this critical fact. The president has broad authority governing classification of, and access to, classified documents.” That’s not enough for Dearie, whose examination is scheduled to conclude before the end of the year. “If the government gives me prima facia evidence that they are classified documents, and you don’t advance any claim of declassification, I’m left with a prima facia case of classified documents, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said in court Tuesday, per Ana Cabrera of CNN.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie also remarked, grappling with what Trump’s legal team was trying to do. Thousands of docs were seized from Mar-a-Lago in the raid, but only a small portion were marked as classified (although those materials evidently contain extremely sensitive info). The Justice Department is pushing in the 11th Circuit for investigative access to the materials marked classified. In Dearie’s review, a conclusion by the special master to accept the claims of classification from the Justice Department would presumably mean accepting and supporting what follows from that, including the investigation into issues that extend beyond Trump himself. There’s also a national security probe by the intel community into issues surrounding the potential disclosure of the materials alongside prospective efforts to figure out what might have been within empty folders marked for classified materials that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Trump would presumably like to see as many of the docs as possible, per whatever standard he accepts at the moment, back in his possession. Dearie says Trump bears the burden of proof in dealing with any claims of privilege.