A member of the Secret Service is seen in front of the house of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022.
Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images
A federal judge in Florida said at a hearing Thursday that she is going to unseal a more detailed inventory of things FBI agents seized within the Aug. 8 raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Judge Aileen Cannon also will make public a standing report by the investigation team probing the removal of documents from the White House when Trump left office in early 2021.
But Cannon ended the hearing without ruling on a pending request by Trump to appoint an independent watchdog, often known as a special master, who would review government documents seized by the FBI before the Department of Justice can be allowed to make use of the records to advance its probe.
Cannon said she is going to rule in a while that request, which Trump made in a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Trump’s lawyers had requested a more detailed list of documents taken from Mar-a-Lago than the less revealing inventory they’ve previously received from investigators.
The DOJ is opposing the decision for a special master, arguing that it’s going to unjustifiably delay its criminal investigation.
The Justice Department also has said that a review of the documents by a team of internal department watchdogs already has accomplished its own review and identified some records that may potentially be exempt from use within the investigation because they’re protected by attorney-client privilege.
Documents seized by FBI from Mar-a-Lago
Source: Department of Justice
In a separate ruling Thursday, Cannon said she is going to keep sealed a standing report on that review by the DOJ’s so-called filter team.
Jay Bratt, the DOJ’s top counterintelligence official, also argued on the hearing that Trump isn’t entitled to a review of the documents by a special master because “he isn’t any longer the president.”
“And since he’s now not the president, he had no right to those documents … that ends the evaluation,” Bratt said.
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Special masters, often drawn from the ranks of retired judges, are typically appointed in cases where there’s a risk that a number of the records seized by law enforcement ought to be barred from use in an investigation because they’re protected by attorney-client privilege.
Trump’s lawyers, nevertheless, argue that a number of the records could possibly be protected by executive privilege that may result from him having been president on the time they were created.
In a court filing Tuesday, the DOJ revealed that greater than 100 classified documents were found at Mar-a-Lago, the private club in Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump maintains a residence, throughout the Aug. 8 raid.
That discovery got here two months after Trump’s lawyers, in response to a federal grand jury subpoena, provided the DOJ with a sworn certification that a search of Trump’s living quarters and office had not found records that were marked classified.
Tuesday’s filing said there’s evidence that government records including those marked classified were likely concealed and faraway from a storage room at that residence in an effort to “obstruct the federal government’s investigation.”
Authorities have said the National Archives and Records Administration tried for a couple of 12 months after Trump left the White House in January 2021 to acquire documents it suspected were still in his possession. When Trump did hand over 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago earlier this 12 months, they were found to contain highly classified material, resulting in the opening of the DOJ probe, and eventually the Aug. 8 raid.
Trump has argued that he declassified the records before leaving office. But whether or not the documents remain classified is irrelevant under the criminal laws that the DOJ is eyeing within the case, which include the espionage statute and obstruction of justice.
By law, White House records have to be turned over to NARA when a president leaves office.
During Thursday’s hearing, Trump lawyer Jim Trusty repeated an analogy that has change into popular amongst defenders of the previous president on the records issue.
“We have characterised it at times as an overdue library book scenario where there is a dispute — not even a dispute — but ongoing negotiations with [the National Archives] that has suddenly been transformed right into a criminal investigation,” Trusty said, in response to NBC News.
Trusty’s claim omitted mention of a grand jury subpoena issued for the documents.