Trump’s lawyers oppose judge’s request to clarify actions Trump took to release seized items

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Lawyers for former President Donald Trump filed a file Monday clarifying U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie’s request to the former president about actions he took over material seized during the Aug 8 search from his residence in Mar-a-Lago.

The submission follows Dearie’s appointment last week to serve as an independent arbitrator or special master tasked with reviewing the documents retrieved by the FBI during its search.

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Trump’s attorneys referred to a draft plan by Dearie that required the plaintiff, i.e. Trump, to “disclose specific disclosure information to the court and government.” Dearie has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

In Monday night’s filing, lawyers for the former president suggested they may not comply, arguing that any statements regarding the release of documents could potentially be used as a defense against any future criminal charges.

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Trump FBI Legal
An aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is seen near dusk on August 10, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. The recently unsealed FBI document on the Mar-a-Lago investigation not only provides new details about the probe, but also reveals clues about the arguments his legal team plans to make.

Steve Helber / TBEN


“Otherwise, the Special Master process would have compelled the plaintiff to disclose a full and specific defense of the merits of a subsequent charge without such requirement becoming apparent in the court order,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

According to an detailed FBI inventory receipt released on Sept. 2, federal law enforcement seized 33 items, boxes or containers when the search warrant was executed on Aug. 8. The FBI had previously released an inventory of seized items, including documents identified as “Miscellaneous Classified/TS/SCI Documents,” with some of those marked “top secret”, the highest ranking rankings.

Under federal regulations governing classification, a “top secret” designation is reserved for material whose unauthorized disclosure could cause “exceptionally serious harm” to national security.

The designation “SCI” ​​is short for “Sensitive Compartmented Information” and refers to classified information related to sensitive intelligence sources, methods or analytical processes. Any information marked with the designation can only be discussed within a “SCIF” – a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” – a secure area or building restricted to government officials with a corresponding security clearance.

After news of the FBI’s search first came out, the former president claimed in a message to Truth Social that the material had “all been released.” But in the following weeks, Trump’s legal team has not explicitly reiterated that the former president has taken steps to release any material in motions and hearings set forth in court.

While a U.S. president has far-reaching declassification capabilities, there is a document release process that includes written documentation and consultation with relevant government agencies. It remains unclear that Trump has formally released all materials moved from the White House to his home in South Florida.

For its part, the US Department of Justice has proposed a list of topics that prosecutors want to discuss at Tuesday’s first meeting before the special master. Among them, government attorneys have urged Dearie to hire a third-party vendor to scan documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago to streamline the document review process.

In his role as Special Captain, Dearie has been tasked with reviewing the more than 11,000 documents seized by federal law enforcement to determine if material found during the search is protected by attorney-client privilege and/ or executive privilege.

Federal prosecutors have previously argued that appointing a special captain would delay criminal investigations into the handling of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago. . Attorneys for the Department of Justice believe any interruption to their criminal investigations could damage US national security, given the nature of the documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago.

Melissa Quinn, Olivia Gazis, Andres Triay and Scott MacFarlane contributed to this report.

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