The special director appointed to review documents by federal agents who raided former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate appeared to cast doubt on Trump’s claim on Tuesday that he had declassified various top-secret and other highly sensitive documents found there.
Special guru and senior U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie previously asked Trump’s lawyers for more information about the more than 100 sensitive documents that federal agents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate. files, which may have been decrypted. Trump’s lawyers told the judge in a letter Monday night that they did not want to disclose the information yet because it could force them to prematurely “disclose the defense of the merits of any subsequent prosecution.”
During the hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, Dearie noted that the current case is a civil dispute, not a criminal one, but that he is taking the administration’s national security concerns seriously.
“Let’s not underestimate the fact that we are at least dealing with potentially legitimate classified information. The government, like all of us, has a very strong obligation to make sure this information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands,” Dearie said. While Trump’s filings claim that neither side has provided evidence that the documents are classified, Dirie said the administration has provided “prime evidence” that the documents are classified because they are classified.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end,” Derie said, unless Trump’s team has some evidence to the contrary.
Trump claimed on social media that he declassified all the records he had, but his lawyers have not formally made that argument in any sworn court filings.
Trump’s attorney, James Trusty, insisted that “we shouldn’t have to disclose statements” and witness statements about the classification issue. Dearie suggested that they would not do so could cause problems for their current case.
“My point is that you can’t eat cake at the same time,” Dearie said.
Justice Department attorney Julie Edelstein noted that some of the recovered documents were “so sensitive that even members of the team investigating possible crimes here did not have permission to view them.” She noted that, While Trusty had a top-secret clearance, even that “was not sufficient to view some of the controversial documents in this case.”
Trusty called Edelstein’s argument “a bit shocking.” “It’s an amazing moment that even a lawyer can access the documents that make up the reason for their raid,” he said.
The judge told Trump’s lawyers, “This is a need to know. If you need to know, you’ll know.” He also suggested that he would try to avoid reviewing some of the most sensitive documents in the case — and let Mr. Trump’s lawyers also have no access to the documents.
“I don’t want to see the material — it could be sensitive material,” he said, adding that if he could advise the judge who asked him to advise, “without exposing myself or you to the material, I would Will do it. On the other hand, if I can’t do it, we have to take another option.
Dearie said he would issue a scheduling order for the case later on Tuesday, noting that “there are 11,000 documents” in dispute in the case and that “we have a short time” to review them for privilege issues.
Trusty urged Dilly not to act too quickly. He said Trump’s team “started from scratch” and would benefit from “having time to look at all the documents.”
Earlier this month, Florida federal judge Erin Cannon, Trump’s nominee, granted the former president’s request to appoint a special director to review evidence and ordered the Justice Department to halt its criminal investigation of the retracted documents while the review was pending. . Cannon said a damage assessment of the mishandling of documents could go ahead, but the Justice Department said a criminal investigation was a necessary part of the assessment and appealed her order.
In a court filing on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers argued that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals should deny the administration’s request to stay the Cannon ruling, calling the investigation “unprecedented and misleading” and “an out-of-control” File Storage Disputes”. “
Trump’s bid was backed by filings with an appeals court by a coalition of 11 Republican attorneys general who Suggest “looting” Trump’s home is politically motivated and argues that Cannon’s order should remain as it is because of the “game skills” of the Biden administration. Most of those involved had previously backed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election result, which was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tom Winter contributed.