The impartial judge reviewing the evidence from the FBI raid on Donald Trump‘s Florida estate said on Tuesday that he planned to move quickly through the review process and seemed dubious of Trump’s attorneys’ hesitation to clarify whether they believed the records had been declassified.
After being appointed last week as a so-called special master, veteran Brooklyn judge Raymond Dearie met with attorneys for Trump and the Department of Justice for the first time. The gathering was called to discuss the next steps in a review process that will likely slow the criminal probe into retaining top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago.
The FBI searched on August 8, and it will be Dearie’s job to sort through the hundreds of documents they found and separate out those that could be protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
Trump’s attorneys have refused to answer Dearie’s questions about whether or not the confiscated papers had been previously declassified, despite Trump’s claims that they had. While arguing in a separate filing on Tuesday that the Department of Justice had not shown that the records were classified, his attorneys have constantly avoided making such a claim.
They argue that a president has unrestricted power to declassify information. The former president of the United States “has unrestricted access along with unfettered declassification authority,” Trump’s attorney James Trusty argued in court on Tuesday.
Dearie, though, has stated that he is likely to treat the documents as classified if Trump’s attorneys do not genuinely argue that they have been declassified. The Department of Justice makes a convincing case that they remain classified. For him, he remarked, “That’s the end of it.”
The attorneys hinted that Trump could use the declassification issue as part of his argument in a letter to Dearie on Monday night. Trusty said that the Trump team should not be compelled to discuss its defense strategy at this time.
He dismissed suggestions that the lawyers were playing “gamesman-like” tactics and instead emphasised the need for “baby steps” in the negotiation process. His suggestion was to have the talk every time Trump claims to reclaim property.
Dearie acknowledged the validity of the argument, but offered, “I think my take on it is, you can’t have your cake and eat it.” An indictment may be imminent, something the Trump attorneys acknowledged despite their stubbornness. For prosecutors to pursue criminal charges under any of the three statutes cited by the DOJ in a warrant, it is not necessary for the information at issue to be classified as secret.
About 11,000 documents, including about 100 marked as classified, need to be inspected as part of the special master’s duties. Aileen Cannon, a US district judge appointed by Trump, granted the request for a special master and gave Dearie until November 30 to complete his review, instructing him to give top priority to secret documents.
Dearie, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, stated emphatically at the meeting on Tuesday that he would adhere to the timeline. Justice Department attorney Julie Edelstein expressed optimism that the materials could be digitized and delivered to Trump’s attorneys next week.
Specifically, she mentioned that the department had provided the legal team with a list of five approved providers for scanning, hosting, and other processing of the documents. Dearie has given Trump’s legal team until Friday to settle on a provider.
Earlier, Trump’s legal team argued that the appeals court should not overturn Cannon’s order temporarily blocking the DOJ’s use of the confidential records for its criminal probe while Dearie completes his assessment. The Department of Justice is challenging Cannon’s demand that it provide Dearie access to secret documents because such files cannot be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege.
It has been reported that the Justice Department’s probe has been hampered by Cannon’s directive. Trump’s legal team has dismissed these worries as exaggerated, arguing that investigators can still accomplish their goals without thoroughly reviewing the stolen documents.