Arbitrator in Trump Docs probe signals intent to act quickly

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WASHINGTON (TNZT) — TNZT arbitrator charged with inspecting documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home said Tuesday he plans to push through the review process quickly. and appeared skeptical of the Trump team’s reluctance to say whether it believed the data had been declassified.

“We will continue what I call responsible shipping,” Raymond Dearie, a senior Brooklyn judge, told Trump and Justice Department attorneys during their first meeting since his appointment last week as a so-called special master.

The purpose of the meeting was to settle the next steps in a review process expected to delay weeks, if not months, the criminal investigation into the holding of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. As special master, Dearie will be responsible for searching the thousands of documents recovered during the August 8 FBI search and separating any documents that may be protected by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

While Trump’s attorneys have requested the appointment of a special master to ensure an independent review of the documents, they have resisted Dearie’s request for more information about whether the seized documents had been previously released — such as Trump has claimed. His lawyers consistently backed that claim, even when they claimed in a separate filing Tuesday that the Justice Department had failed to prove the documents were classified. In any case, they say, a president has absolute authority to release information.

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“In the case of someone who has been President of the United States, they have unfettered access and unfettered declassification powers,” one of Trump’s attorneys, James Trusty, said in the courtroom on Tuesday.

But Dearie said that if Trump’s attorneys don’t actually claim the documents have been released, and the Justice Department instead makes plausible that they remain classified, he would be inclined to consider them classified.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “that’s the end.”

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 14: This aerial view shows former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on September 14, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump’s legal team is currently negotiating with the Justice Department to select a special master to review documents, some marked Top Secret, that were seized when the FBI searched the compound. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Joe Raedle via Getty Images

He denied that the lawyers attempted to engage in “gamesman-esque” behavior, but instead said it was a process that required “baby steps.” He said the right time for discussion is when Trump pushes forward with a claim to recover seized property.

Dearie said he understood the position but commented “I think my opinion is you can’t have your cake and eat it”.

The resistance to the judge’s request was notable because it was Trump’s attorneys, not the Justice Department, who had asked for the appointment of a special master, and because the recalcitrance included an admission that the investigation could lead to a charge.

Despite the focus on whether or not the seized documents are classified, the three statutes the Justice Department listed on an injunction as part of its investigation do not require the mishandled information to be classified so that prosecutors can to initiate criminal proceedings.

The Trump team has also questioned the feasibility of some deadlines for the special master review. That work involves inspecting the roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 marked as classified, taken during the FBI’s search.

CALIFORNI - AUGUST 27: This photo illustration views a page of the government-released version of the FBI search warrant affidavit for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on August 27, 2022 in California .  The 32-page affidavit was heavily redacted for the protection of witnesses and law enforcement officers and to ensure the
CALIFORNI – AUGUST 27: This photo illustration views a page of the government-released version of the FBI search warrant affidavit for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 27, 2022 in California . The 32-page affidavit was heavily redacted for the protection of witnesses and law enforcement officers and to ensure the “integrity of the ongoing investigation.” (Photo illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Mario Tama via Getty Images

Dearie, a Ronald Reagan appointee whose name is on the atrium of his Brooklyn courthouse, made it clear during the meeting on Tuesday that he intended to meet the deadlines, saying there was “little time” to complete the assigned tasks. .

Julie Edelstein, a Justice Department attorney, said she hoped the Department could digitize the documents and provide them to Trump’s lawyers early next week. She noted that the department had provided the legal team with a list of five suppliers that had been approved by the government to scan, host and otherwise process the seized documents.

After some negotiation, Dearie instructed Trusty’s lawyers to pick a seller for Friday.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump’s legal team urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to enforce Cannon’s injunction, temporarily barring the Justice Department from using the classified documents for its criminal investigation while Dearie makes his assessment. completes. The department also disputes Cannon’s demand to provide Dearie with classified material for his review, stating that such documents are not subject to potential claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

The department also said Cannon’s order hindered the investigation.

Trump’s lawyers called those concerns exaggerated in a response Tuesday, saying investigators could still do other work on the investigation without even examining the seized documents.

“Ultimately, any brief delay in the criminal investigation will not irreparably harm the administration,” Trump’s attorneys wrote. “The ban does not prevent the government from conducting a criminal investigation, it only delays the investigation for a short period while a neutral third party reviews the documents in question.”

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