A court-appointed “special master” appointed at the recommendation of Trump’s legal team showed impatience with some of their legal arguments on Tuesday as they tried to withhold information about whether Trump declassified documents.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Judge Raymond Dearie told Trump’s legal team during their first hearing in his Brooklyn courtroom.
Drearie is tasked with reviewing a trove of government documents, including information marked classified, that FBI agents seized at Mar-a-Lago.
His lashing out came as he questioned Trump’s lawyers as they and Justice Department lawyers tried to figure out how to sort through boxes of information kept at Trump’s private club in West Palm Beach, Florida, after Trump left office.
He had already pressed Trump to reveal information about whether the president declassified the documents, as he claims he did — a push that Trump’s team opposes.
A letter from Trump’s team to Judge Raymond Dearie – one of two names they forwarded to a Florida judge who ruled in their favor for a special master – reveals that Judge Dearie asked them to ‘disclose specific information regarding declassification to the court and to the Government.’
That’s a place Trump’s legal team doesn’t want to go at this point. Trump’s team of lawyers has declined in legal filings to make the allegation that Trump declassified this material, even though Trump has publicly said he did.
In its filings, including one from Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers continue to refer only to “classified records” — suggesting they may not be saying it without saying it explicitly.
In a stunning statement, the team argued against the judge’s request, saying they do not want to be forced to “fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent charge without such a requirement being apparent 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. The Trump team listed him as among two recommendations for the post. According to one report, they thought he was a skeptic of the FBI
At the very least, it raises the possibility that they might want to use the declassification argument as a criminal defense should Trump be charged with improperly possessing national security information after he leaves office.
It also raises the possibility that Trump’s decision to get 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 on the timeline, suggesting “respectfully” that “the deadlines are being extended” in a process that will go through at least November as Dearie sorts through about 11,000 documents to determine which ones Trump’s team is able to keep away. from investigators.
It was the first signal of how Dearie, a Reagan appointee who has been on the bench for decades, would act. Attorneys for both sides were set to appear in a Brooklyn judge’s courtroom Tuesday.
Dearie will look for 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 (back center), Jim Trusty (center right), Lindsey Halligan, Evan Corcoran (2nd right) arrive at the United States Courthouse, Brooklyn, New York for their first meeting with the ‘special’ master’
Former President Trump’s legal team, including M. Evan Corcoran (left), Lindsey Halligan, in a legal filing opposed the judge’s push for classified information
Documents seized during the August 8 search of Trump’s property are pictured on August 30. Trump’s lawyers have declined to say in legal filings whether Trump 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 turn him into a skeptic of the FBI, Axios reported
Trump’s lawyers have not specifically said he ordered the documents classified. They put the terms “classified” in quotation marks in legal filings
Protesters greeted Trump’s lawyers with signs, including one that said ‘nuclear secrets,’ referring to the highly classified material the government said was seized from Mar-a-Lago
That will come later Axios reported two days ago that Dearie’s role in the 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 been appalled by the surveillance at the beginning 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 statements in the public record in which Dearie was critical of the FBI.
Trump lashed out at the agency after a team of FBI agents swooped on Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, when Trump was not present.
National Archives officials determined there were 150 documents marked classified in the first 15 boxes of material returned by Trump in January.
Justice Department officials retrieved more documents in June, and after the FBI raid, it obtained about 100 more, for a total of about 300 documents marked as classified.
The government on Monday provided Judge Dearie with a proposed agenda for their first meeting, as well as some of the mechanics of how the special master will review documents — even as the government appeals Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that gave the special master authority to sort through boxes of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago in the FBI’s August 8 raid.
The government would deliver seized documents to a vendor who would scan them into a single file under FBI observation.