Time isn’t on the side of ex-President Donald Trump with the Department of Justice now saying that his request for a special master to be appointed to sift through documents retrieved in the FBI’s August 8th search of Mar-a-Lago has come too late for the DOJ.
In a brief filed Monday by U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Jay Bratt — Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division at the Justice Department —it states that the DOJ Privilege Review Team assigned to filter privileged records from those party to the legally executed search warrant have identified materials that could possibly be covered by attorney-client privilege.
“The government notes that before the Court issued its Preliminary Order, and in accordance with the judicially authorized search warrant’s provisions, the Privilege Review Team (as described in paragraphs 81-84 of the search warrant affidavit) identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information, completed its review of those materials, and is in the process of following the procedures set forth in paragraph 84 of the search warrant affidavit to address potential privilege disputes, if any. Additionally, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) are currently facilitating a classification review of materials recovered pursuant to the search.”
Trump-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon indicated over the weekend that she was inclined to approve Trump’s request, asking for the DOJ to give the former president a detailed list of documents taken from his Palm Beach estate.
In the redacted affidavit unsealed by the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, details of the filter team’s process were explicit.
“[T]he Privilege Review Team will search the ‘45 Office’ and conduct a review of the seized materials from the “45 Office” to identify and segregate documents or data containing potentially attorney-client privileged information,” the affidavit indicates.
In the two weeks since the FBI search, the DOJ has been handling its own review – similar to what a special master would be assigned to do. The filter team discovered potentially privileged materials, which the court was alerted to on Monday.
Over 180 classified documents were uncovered among the 15 boxes of materials turned over to the National Archives by Trump, prompting an investigation into the level of threat to national security posed by the ex-President’s taking of top secret government property when he left office.
Donald Trump and his legal team have accused U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland of acting in a partisan manner and have insinuated that the search was an “attack” on a political opponent.
In actuality, Federal investigators tried for 18 months to get the documents back, making several visits to the former president’s Florida residence in an attempt to retrieve the materials cordially – even being lied to by Trump’s attorneys in the spring when they told the FBI that all the documents in question had been returned.
A hearing on whether Judge Cannon will grant Trump’s request for a special master has been set for Thursday at 1 pm.
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