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Special master in Trump document probe signals intent to move quickly

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The independent arbitrator in charge of examining the documents seized in FBI searches for ex-President Donald Trump’s Florida home He said on Tuesday that he intended to move forward with the review process and sounded skeptical of the Trump team’s reluctance to say whether he believed the records had been declassified.

“We’re going to move forward with what I call responsible dispatch,” Raymond Deere, a veteran judge in Brooklyn, told Trump’s attorneys and the Department of Justice in their first meeting since his appointment last week as special commander.

The purpose of the meeting was to outline the next steps in a review process that is expected to slow for weeks, if not months, as the criminal investigation into the retention of highly classified information in Mar-a-Lago after Trump leaves the White House. As a private master, Dearie will be responsible for sifting through the thousands of documents recovered during the August 8 FBI search and separating those protected by claims for executive or attorney-client privilege.

Although Trump’s lawyers requested that a special master be appointed to ensure an independent review of the documents, one of the former president’s lawyers, James Trosti, made it clear that they were concerned that the deadlines Deere proposed were too ambitious.

Lawyers are also resisting Deere’s request for information on whether the confiscated records have been declassified, Trump asserted. in Message to Derry And the lawyers said, on Monday evening, that this case may be part of Trump’s defense in the event of an indictment.

But Derry seemed unhappy with this situation. He said that if Trump’s lawyers don’t actually confirm that the records have been declassified and instead the Justice Department makes an admissible case that they remain classified, then “as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

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A diagram showing Judge Raymond Deere, Department of Justice attorneys and former President Donald Trump in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Tuesday, September 20, 2022.

Jane Rosenberg


Trusty said the Trump team should not be forced at this point to reveal a potential defense based on the idea of ​​declassifying the records. He denied that lawyers were trying to engage in “gaming sophistication” but believed instead that it was a process that required “small steps”.

But Derry remarked at one point: “I guess my point is, you can’t have your cake and eat it” either.

Trump asserted without evidence that all records were declassified; His lawyers did not echo this claim, although they have repeatedly asserted that the president has absolute authority to declassify information, and said in Separate Deposit Tuesday The Department of Justice did not prove that the records were kept secret.

“As someone who has been President of the United States, he has unrestricted access along with the unrestricted declassification power,” Trosty said on Tuesday.

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Resistance to the judge’s request was notable because it was Trump’s attorneys, not the Department of Justice, who requested the appointment of a special master and because the rebellion included an admission that the investigation could be headed toward an indictment.

In the letter, Trump’s lawyers said the time to address this question would be if they push forward with Justice Department demands to return some of the property seized from Mar-a-Lago.

“Otherwise, the President’s Special Process will compel the Prosecutor to fully and specifically disclose his defense of the merits of any subsequent indictment,” they wrote.

Trump’s team also asked the judge to consider deferring all deadlines for his review. This work involves examining nearly 11,000 documents, including about 100 classified as classified, that were captured during an FBI search.

US District Judge Elaine Cannon, a Trump appointee who approved the Trump team’s request for a special master, set a November 30 deadline for Derry’s review and ordered him to prioritize his search over classified records. The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to block Cannon’s order requiring it to supply classified documents for review. This appeal is pending.

Deere, a Ronald Reagan appointee whose name is in the lobby of a Brooklyn courthouse, made clear during Tuesday’s meeting that he intends to meet the deadlines, saying there is “little time” to complete the assigned tasks.

Julie Edelstein, an attorney at the Department of Justice, said she hopes the department can digitize the documents and submit them to Trump’s attorney by early next week. She indicated that the department gave the legal team a list of five vendors approved by the government for the purposes of surveying, hosting and processing the reserved records.

After some haggling, Deere instructed Trump’s lawyers to select a vendor by Friday.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump’s legal team urge The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in effect keeps Cannon’s order temporarily barring the Department of Justice from using classified records in its criminal investigation while Derry completes his review. The ministry said this hampered its investigation into the existence of highly classified information at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s lawyers called those concerns exaggerated, saying investigators could still do other work in the investigation even without scrutinizing the seized records.

“Ultimately, any short delay in the criminal investigation will not irreparably harm the government,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The injunction 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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