DOJ Undercuts Trump’s Bid To Have Special Master Review Documents Seized From Mar-a-Lago

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

When the FBI seized documents that they claimed were “classified” stored at the Trump family home in Florida, Former President Donald Trump protested that the documents had been declassified by none other than himself and that all the documents were covered to be in his possession, either by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

According to the redacted affidavit of the search warrant, agents seized not only allegedly highly classified materials, but also handwritten documents.

Some of the papers were stored with other materials.

This led to Trump and his attorneys filing a motion arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers filed a new motion seeking the special master who would serve as a third party to sort through information that was seized.

His team said the redacted affidavit strengthened the case for a special master, saying the document ‘provides almost no information that would allow Movant to understand why the raid took place, or what was taken from his home.’

Although the Biden administration has said it was unaware of the FBI raid on the Trump home, it was revealed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has told Congress the U.S. intelligence community will undertake a damage assessment of the allegedly classified material held at Trump’s home.

The letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney and House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff is the first indication that the Biden administration will be involved in reviewing the documents.

Haines told the two-panel chairs that her office will conduct an ‘assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents,’ according to a letter dated Friday.

The two committee chairs said the unsealed affidavit ‘affirms our grave concern that among the documents stored at Mar-a-Lago were those that could endanger human sources. It is critical that the [Intelligence Community] move swiftly to assess and, if necessary, to mitigate the damage done—a process that should proceed in parallel with DOJ’s criminal investigation.’

Maloney had turned up the heat on the pressure for a review on Friday, when she tweeted that Trump’s ‘reckless handling of our country’s most sensitive documents placed our national security at grave risk and blatantly violated the Presidential Records Act.’
She said it made such an assessment ‘even more urgent.’

Schiff tweeted Friday: ‘The redacted affidavit makes clear Trump kept highly-classified national defense information at a public resort. If that wasn’t alarming enough, some wasn’t even in folders, merely intermixed with news clips and other debris. The IC must do an immediate damage assessment.’

This development by the administration highlights the need for the special master that Trump requested.

U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon signaled her ‘preliminary intent’ to grant Trump’s request of having a special master go through documents.

The Trump-appointed judge, who was confirmed in 2020, last week pushed Trump’s lawyers to clarify their basis for seeking a special master, asking them to show the ‘precise relief sought.

Trump’s team responded and said it wanted independent rulings on ‘privileged and potentially privileged materials.’

Sometimes third parties are appointed to sort through documents that may be governed by an attorney-client privilege.

Some legal observers were surprised by Judge Cannon tipping her inclination even before hearing opposing arguments from the government.

It also is not clear that DOJ has yet been formally served in the case.

Judge Cannon set a hearing for Sept. 1, but said her order was not a ‘final determination.’

She also told DOJ, the defendant, in this case, to provide a ‘more detailed report’ of ‘all property seized’ pursuant to the search warrant.

But without the special master being appointed yet, the government has issued a progress report on its efforts to go through the seized material comes after Trump sued and demanded a ‘special master’ to perform a similar function.

The letter also references an ongoing ‘classification review’ by the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Now, it is announced that a ‘filter team’ of FBI agents has already completed its review of material that may involve attorney-client privilege, and told a judge they would provide a more fulsome review of the material they removed.

That material, however, will remain under seal, following a federal district judge’s ‘preliminary intent’ to grant former President Donald Trump’s request for a ‘special master’ to go through the documents, Daily Mail reports.

‘The Privilege Review Team … identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information,’ the government wrote US District Judge Eileen Cannon in response to her weekend order.

The team has ‘completed its review of those materials, and is in the process of following the procedures … to address potential privilege disputes, if any,’ wrote US Attorney Antonio Gonzalez and Justice Department official Jay Bratt.

They further wrote that they will comply with the judge’s order to provide a ‘more detailed Receipt for Property’ that was seized from former President Donald Trump under a search warrant on August 8.


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