Trump legal team balks at judge’s declassification questions

Eric Tucker And Michael R. Sisak Associated Press
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
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An aerial view of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 31, 2022. A federal judge has appointed Raymond Dearie, a veteran New York jurist to serve as an independent arbiter and review records seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s home last month.
AP PHOTO

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s legal team has told a newly appointed independent arbiter that it does not want to answer his questions about the declassification status of the documents seized last month from the former president’s Florida home, saying that issue could be part of Trump’s defense if he’s indicted.

Lawyers for Trump and for the Justice Department are to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday before a veteran judge named last week as special master to review the roughly 11,000 documents — including about 100 marked as classified — taken during the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

Ahead of the status conference, Raymond Dearie, the special master, requested the two sides to submit a proposed agenda and also provided a draft plan for how he envisions the process moving forward over the next two months.

Trump’s lawyers signaled in a Monday evening letter their objection to several aspects of that draft plan, including a request from Dearie that they disclose to him and to the Justice Department information about the classification status of the seized documents.

The resistance to the judge’s request was notable because it was the Trump team, not the Justice Department, that had requested the appointment of a special master to conduct an independent review of the documents so that any material covered by claims of legal privilege could be segregated from the investigation — and because the Trump team’s recalcitrance included an acknowledgment that the probe could be building toward an indictment.

Trump has maintained without evidence that all of the records were declassified; his lawyers have not echoed that claim, though they have asserted that a president has absolute authority to declassify information.

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