Dearie Questions Trump’s Attorney About Classification of the Documents

As special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie, previously requested more information from Trump’s attorneys concerning the declassification of over 100 sensitive documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate. According to Trump’s attorneys, revealing that information now would force them to prematurely disclose a defense to any subsequent indictment.

Despite the fact that the case is a civil dispute rather than a criminal one, Dearie said he took seriously the government’s concerns about national security.

Dearie advised that they should not dismiss the possibility that they were dealing with legitimately classified information. The government has a strong obligation to ensure that this information does not fall into the wrong hands, Dearie stated. In contrast to Trump’s filing, Dearie said that the government had presented “prima facie evidence” that the documents were classified, due to the actual markings on the documents.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Dearie said, “that’s the end of it,” unless Trump’s team can provide evidence otherwise.

Although Trump has claimed on social media that he declassified all of the records in his possession, his lawyers have yet to formally make that claim.

James Trusty, Trump’s attorney, believes they should not be required to disclose declarations and witness statements on the classification of documents. Dearie suggested that not doing so might be problematic in their current situation.

In his opinion, “you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie explained.

According to Justice Department lawyer Julie Edelstein, some of the recovered documents “are so sensitive that even members of the team investigating possible offenses here have not yet been provided clearances to see these documents.” She pointed out that, while Trusty has top-secret clearance, it would not be sufficient to view a number of the documents at issue in this case.

Edelstein’s argument was described as “amazing” by Trusty. It’s amazing at this point to dismiss even one attorney who has access to the documents that form the basis for their raid. The judge told Trump’s attorney, it is a matter of necessity. “And if you need to know, you’ll find out.” He also stated that he would try to avoid reviewing some of the most sensitive documents in the case and prevent Trump’s lawyers from viewing them.

Dearie said he would issue a scheduling order in the case later Tuesday, noting that “there are 11,000 documents” at stake and that “we have a short time” to review them for privilege issues.

Dearie was cautioned not to move too quickly by Trusty. He stated that Trump’s team is “starting from scratch” and would benefit from the time to review all the documents.

Earlier this month, Trump-nominated federal judge Aileen Cannon approved the former president’s request to appoint a special master to review the evidence and ordered the DOJ to halt the criminal investigation into the recovered documents while that review is ongoing. Cannon stated that a damage assessment into any mishandling of the documents could proceed. Still, the Justice Department noted that a criminal investigation is required as part of the assessment and filed an appeal against her order.

Lawyers for Trump argued in a court filing Tuesday that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should reject the government’s request for a stay of Cannon’s ruling, calling the investigation “both unprecedented and misguided” and a “document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control.”

In a filing to the appeals court, a coalition of 11 Republican attorneys general argued that the search of Trump’s home was politically motivated. Most of those involved previously supported a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results, which the United States Supreme Court dismissed.