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Justice Dept. Has Reviewed Documents Seized in Mar-a-Lago Search


The Justice Department has accomplished an initial evaluation of all sensitive documents seized from former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida estate three weeks ago and put aside any materials that is likely to be covered by attorney-client privilege, in response to a court filing on Monday.

On Saturday, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida suggested she was leaning toward the appointment of an arbiter, often called a special master, to independently review materials taken by federal agents. She ordered the Justice Department to reply by Tuesday and share an entire list of documents taken within the search on Aug. 8.

In her two-page order, Judge Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Mr. Trump in 2020, appeared to side together with his legal team in its effort to appoint an independent expert to review material in the federal government’s possession, a few of it highly classified, that was taken from the previous president’s residence and resort.

That move — filed far later than is typical — is important since it provides Mr. Trump’s team with a chance to contest the federal government’s seizure of specific documents whose ownership, and possibly classification levels, they see as being in dispute.

Monday’s filing, three pages long, is usually legal boilerplate. But in it, lawyers on the Justice Department disclose that its privilege review team accomplished its assessment of the documents and put aside “a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client information,” a requirement that was mandated by the unique search warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in Florida this month.

Takeaways From the Affidavit Utilized in the Mar-a-Lago Search

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Takeaways From the Affidavit Utilized in the Mar-a-Lago Search

The discharge on Aug. 26 of a partly redacted affidavit utilized by the Justice Department to justify its search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence included information that gives greater insight into the continuing investigation into how he handled documents he took with him from the White House. Listed here are the important thing takeaways:

Takeaways From the Affidavit Utilized in the Mar-a-Lago Search

The federal government tried to retrieve the documents for greater than a 12 months. The affidavit showed that the National Archives asked Mr. Trump as early as May 2021 for files that needed to be returned. In January, the agency was capable of collect 15 boxes of documents. The affidavit included a letter from May 2022 showing that Trump’s lawyers knew that he is likely to be in possession of classified materials and that the Justice Department was investigating the matter.

Takeaways From the Affidavit Utilized in the Mar-a-Lago Search

The fabric included highly classified documents. The F.B.I. said it had examined the 15 boxes Mr. Trump had returned to the National Archives in January and that all but one among them contained documents that were marked classified. The markings suggested that some documents could compromise human intelligence sources and that others were related to foreign intercepts collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Takeaways From the Affidavit Utilized in the Mar-a-Lago Search

Prosecutors are concerned about obstruction and witness intimidation. To acquire the search warrant, the Justice Department needed to lay out possible crimes to a judge, and obstruction of justice was amongst them. In a supporting document, the Justice Department said it had “well-founded concerns that steps could also be taken to frustrate or otherwise interfere with this investigation if facts within the affidavit were prematurely disclosed.”

A deeper “classification review” of the intelligence implications of Mr. Trump’s retention of presidency documents by the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence is continuous, the filing revealed. The federal government affidavit, filed to justify the search, revealed concerns within the intelligence community that Mr. Trump’s possession of highly classified materials could compromise “clandestine human sources” collecting information overseas.

In each court papers and public statements, Mr. Trump and his lawyers have argued that among the material seized at Mar-a-Lago may very well be protected by executive privilege, a vestige of his service as president. But legal scholars and a few judges have expressed skepticism that former presidents can unilaterally assert executive privilege over records from their time within the White House. That power, the students and judges say, generally resides with the present president.

While Mr. Trump and his legal team have advanced arguments about executive privilege, many of the cases they cited of their filing asking for a special master concerned independent reviews of seized documents for those shielded by attorney-client privilege.

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department is predicted to file an in depth inventory of the materials seized. But that list, which can go into greater depth than the nominal description within the search warrant that was unsealed this month, will probably be filed under court seal.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and the department’s leaders have yet to make a decision if they are going to seek to unseal that document, in response to officials.

Judge Cannon has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Thursday in a courtroom in West Palm Beach, Fla.

That the Justice Department has already accomplished its review could render Mr. Trump’s request for a special master duplicative, in response to some legal experts. The judge herself will now have access to the federal government’s own assessment of the materials, and she or he could have the knowledge needed to rule on requests by Mr. Trump’s team to exclude individual documents.

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