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Trump’s lawyers resist judge’s request to clarify steps Trump took to declassify items seized in search

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Monday entered a presentation pushing back on US District Judge Raymond Dearie’s request that the former president clarify the steps he took to declassify material seized during the august 8 quest from his Mar-a-Lago residence.

The presentation continues Dearie’s date last week. serve as an independent arbitrator or special master tasked with reviewing documents recovered by the FBI during their search.

Trump’s lawyers referenced a preliminary Dearie plan that required the plaintiff, that is, Trump, “to disclose specific information about the declassification to the Court and the Government.” Dearie has scheduled a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday at 2 pm ET.

In Monday night’s filing, the former president’s attorneys suggested they may not comply and argued that any statement about the documents being declassified could be used as a defense against future criminal charges.

Trump FBI Legal Matters
An aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is seen near dusk on August 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida. The recently released FBI document on the investigation at Mar-a-Lago not only offers new details about the investigation, but also reveals clues about the arguments his legal team intends to make.

Steve Helber/AP


“Otherwise, the Special Master process will have compelled Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense on the merits of any subsequent prosecution without such requirement being evident in the District Court order,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

according to a FBI Itemized Inventory Receipt published on September 2, federal police seized 33 items, boxes or containers when the search warrant was executed on August 8. The FBI had previously released an inventory of seized items that included documents identified as “Various classified documents/TS/SCI”, with some of those marked “top secret”, the highest classification ranking.

Under federal rules governing classification, a “top secret” designation is reserved for material whose unauthorized disclosure could cause “exceptionally serious harm” to national security.

The designation “SCI” ​​is an abbreviation for “Sensitive Shared Information” and refers to classified information that involves sensitive intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes. Any information with the designation may only be discussed within a “SCIF”, a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility”, a secure room or building limited to government officials with the appropriate security clearance.

After news of the FBI search broke, the former president claimed in a post on Truth Social that all the material “was declassified.” But in the weeks since, Trump’s legal team has not explicitly repeated that the former president took steps to declassify any of the materials in motions and court hearings.

While a US President has extensive declassification capabilities, there is a process to declassify documents that involves written documentation and consultation with relevant government agencies. It is not clear that Trump has formally declassified any of the materials moved from the White House to his home in South Florida.

For its part, the US Justice Department has proposed a list of issues that prosecutors want to address during Tuesday’s initial meeting with the special master. Among them, government attorneys have urged Dearie to hire an outside vendor to scan the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago to expedite the document review process.

In his role as a special teacher, Dearie is tasked with investigating the more than 11,000 documents seized by federal law enforcement to determine if any material recovered during the search is protected by attorney-client privilege and/or executive privilege.

Federal prosecutors have previously argued that the appointment of a special master would delay the criminal investigation into the handling of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago. . Justice Department attorneys believe any pause in its criminal investigation could harm US national security given the nature of the documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago.

Melissa Quinn, Olivia Gazis, Andres Triay, and Scott MacFarlane contributed to this report.

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