A day after the Justice Department won an appeals court battle, the special master overseeing the Mar-a-Lago raid has given former president Donald Trump a short deadline to furnish information that would support his allegations regarding materials the FBI recovered.
Judge Raymond Dearie, who was appointed special master by Judge Aileen Cannon, gave Trump’s team until September 30 to submit a declaration on a number of crucial issues, which appeared to make reference to claims made by Trump allies that some of the evidence the FBI claimed it had seized was somehow faked. Dearie requested an affidavit on Thursday from Trump’s attorneys detailing any particular objects included in the Detailed Property Inventory that he claims were not removed from the premises on August 8, 2022.
Dearie reportedly instructed Trump’s staff to make a list of any particular objects that the former president thought were misrepresented in the FBI’s inventory list or that he thought were placed elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago than the place the agency claims they were found. A thorough list of any goods that Trump thinks the FBI may have confiscated but that weren’t included in the property inventory was also requested from Trump by the special master.
The special master stated that “this submission shall be [Trump’s] final opportunity to raise any factual issue as to the correctness and completeness of the Detailed Property Inventory.”
On Wednesday night, an appeals court granted the Government of Justice’s request for a partial stay of a lower court’s ruling, enabling the department to carry on with its criminal investigation using purportedly secret papers that the FBI acquired from Mar-a-Lago.
The three-judge panel’s ruling was favorable to the DOJ, and the appeals court also overturned Cannon’s ruling that the DOJ would have to provide a special master access to about 100 papers with secret markings for independent examination.
The special master required Trump to “prioritize the Filter Materials and to provide the government with a log of its designations as to the Filter Materials” by September 26. Dearie added that he understood the Justice Department had already given Trump a set of documents reviewed by the FBI’s filter team that have been designated as potentially privileged attorney-client communications.
The special master said both Trump and the DOJ will have until Oct. 21 to submit their “final and complete log of disputed designations” to the special master. The special master gave Trump’s team until Oct. 14 to provide the Justice Department with a “final and complete log of designations” related to the former president’s claims of privilege over the seized records.
He added that an affidavit on whether the Justice Department’s property inventory “represents the complete and accurate amount of the goods taken” from Mar-a-Lago must be supplied by “a government officer with appropriate knowledge of the subject.” This would be “excluding papers with classified marks,” he said.
The government is temporarily prohibited from studying and using the seized information for investigative reasons, pending the conclusion of the special master’s review or subsequent Court orders, according to Cannon, a district court judge in Florida. She emphasized that the classification evaluation and intelligence assessment being carried out by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “must not be impeded” by her decision.
However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned that decision on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, she revised her special master order to more closely coincide with the appeals court that had shot her down by agreeing with the DOJ.
In a hearing on Tuesday, Dearie—whom Trump nominated to serve as special master—had advised the former president’s attorneys that until Trump provides proof of declassification, the judge could infer that the records the FBI has obtained are really secret.
Trump’s lawyers informed Dearie that they were cautious to discuss what Trump may have declassified for fear that it would become a component of their defense in the event of a DOJ prosecution in the future.
The appeals court panel appeared to share Dearie’s doubts about Trump’s claims and basically took control of the classification dispute away from the special master.
The circuit judges stated on Wednesday that “[Trump] has not even sought to prove that he has a need to know the material contained in the secret documents.” Furthermore, he hasn’t proven that the present government has waived the need for these documents to meet that criterion. Additionally, even if he had, it alone would not shed any light on why [Trump] has a personal stake in the materials that are deemed to be secret. According to Trump attorney Jim Trusty, “we are not in a position — nor should we be in a position at this point — to fully divulge a substantial defense.”
“In my opinion, you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie said.