The Trump-picked Department of Justice approved special master is giving the ex-President and his legal team until September 30 to put up or shut up regarding his claims that the FBI planted documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and that he declassified top secret materials prior to leaving the White House.
In a Thursday motion, District Judge Raymond Dearie ordered Trump’s attorneys to put on the record, with a filing, stating whether they believe the FBI lied about the classification of the materials or claimed to have taken items that didn’t exist.
“This submission shall be Plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” he wrote.
Earlier in the week, the Ronald Reagan appointee gave Trump’s legal team an opportunity to say whether the records were in fact declassified.
“We have little time to complete the tasks assigned to the court,” Dearie told the lawyers Tuesday, prodding them to quickly resolve legal questions about the high-profile national security investigation into a former president who frequently indicates he may again seek the White House. “We are going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch.”
But the judge got excuses instead.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Dearie asked both sides to submit a proposed agenda, submitting a draft plan for the way he plans to proceed looking over the 11,000 documents seized in the August 8th search – at least 100 marked classified.
In that draft, the special master asked the former President’s lawyers to disclose if the sensitive documents had been declassified before leaving office. But Trump’s attorneys refused – claiming it would “force” their client to reveal his defense.
In the letter, Trump’s lawyers say the time for addressing that question would be if they file a motion seeking the return by the Justice Department of some of the property taken from Mar-a-Lago.
“The Special Master process will have forced the plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment,” the lawyers wrote. Being that it was Donald Trump himself and those acting on his behalf who requested a special master to begin with, Dearie chastised the team, telling them, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”
Though Judge Dearie has until November to review the documents, he doesn’t appear eager to take that long. Per WaPo:
Dearie’s Thursday order said Trump’s attorneys and the government should review the non-classified documents on a rolling basis, with Trump’s team reviewing them first and marking any that it thinks are privileged.
Though the order gives the plaintiff and defendant until October 21st to submit all relevant documents, attorneys for Trump claim it isn’t enough time.
Dearie has a solution for that too, announcing that Judge James Ornstein would be assisting him along with as court staff from the Eastern District of New York. Like the special master, Ornstein served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and holds a top-secret security clearance.
Trump appointed District Court Judge Aileen Cannon – who did an end around all precedent and protocol by granting the special master request and attempting to pause the Justice Department’s criminal investigation – recently denied Trump’s request for the DOJ to split the bill for the unprecedented review – you want it, you pay for it. Once again, however, Trump got lucky as Judge Dearie says he won’t charge the ex-President for his services. He did, however, recommend Ornstein be paid $500 an hr.
Looks like Trump got two judges well versed in espionage, top secret, and classified materials for the price of one with his special master request – but somehow we doubt he’s very pleased.
When Judge Dearie told the former President’s team they couldn’t “have their cake and eat it,” he should’ve added– be careful what you wish for.
Original reporting by Perry Stein at The Washington Post.
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