The Department of Justice revealed in a court filing that investigators have already reviewed the documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8. The move undermines Trump’s request to have a “special master” review the documents and identify privileged materials before releasing them to investigators.
According to the filing, the DOJ “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 […] to address potential privilege disputes, if any.”
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Additionally, the filing reveals that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) is “facilitating a classification review of materials recovered pursuant to the search.”
“ODNI is also leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials,” the filing continued.
Investigators are looking into Trump stashing documents as a potential violation of the Espionage Act, but the former president has tried to argue the materials are protected by executive privilege. While he publicly lambasted the judge who signed off on the Aug. 8 search and posted on social media about the privileged nature of the documents, Trump’s legal team didn’t file the motion to block the DOJ and FBI from reviewing the documents until Aug. 22, two weeks after the raid of his Palm Beach residence.
District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the DOJ to appear before for a hearing on Thursday regarding Trump’s request for the appointment of a “special master” to review the documents before the DOJ. Cannon also ordered the department to provide a receipt of the items removed from Trump’s property during the raid, as well as detail “any filter review conducted by the privilege review team and any dissemination of materials beyond the privilege review team.”
The filing on Monday noting that the DOJ has already reviewed the documents ostensibly negates the need for a “special master” to review them first. Trump’s team may have been able to preempt the review if they filed for a “special master” to take control sooner — but they didn’t. While a “special master” could still be appointed, Trump may have missed his opportunity to seize the reins on privilege disputes.
On Thursday, a redacted FBI warrant affidavit unsealed by Judge Bruce Reinhart indicated that the FBI had identified “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET” in the trove of documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago ahead of the raid.
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