DOJ says some privileged documents identified in screening of seized Mar-a-Lago documents
The Justice Department notified a federal judge Monday that authorities had identified a "limited set of materials" seized in this month's search of former President Donald Trump's Florida estate that may contain information protected by attorney-client privilege.
In a brief court filing, Justice officials said they had completed the review of those materials and are addressing any privilege "disputes."
The Justice Department filing comes after U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon signaled her intent to appoint a special master to serve as a third-party screener of documents seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago property.
But the new Justice filing indicates that federal authorities had already assigned a so-called "privilege review team" to do much the same thing that the Trump lawyers had requested: sorting and excluding material that may not be relevant or information that may be designated as privileged.
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Trump's lawyers had called for a halt to the document review until a special master was appointed, but the judge did not act on that request.
The judge has set a hearing on the matter for 1 p.m. Thursday.
The legal dispute is playing out as a separate federal court in Florida authorized the release of the heavily redacted affidavit used to support the unprecedented search, indicating that possible "evidence of obstruction" could be found at Trump's property.
Federal investigators also revealed in the affidavit that an initial tranche of 15 boxes of documents transferred from Mar-a-Lago to to the National Archives and Records Administration in January included 184 classified documents, including some marked as "HSC" relating to clandestine human sources.
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The disclosure has prompted a separate assessment of whether the unsecured documents pose any new threat to national security.
In its new filing Monday, the Justice Department said that U.S. intelligence officials are in the process of conducting the risk assessment.
Trump lawyers, in their initial call for a special master, cast the search in stark political terms and described the government's search warrant as overly broad because it authorized FBI agents to seize "boxes of documents merely because they are physically found together with other items purportedly within the scope of the warrant."
The former president's attorneys also accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of using the criminal justice system to alter the political landscape.
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In their filing, Trump's lawyers also said Garland's recent statement acknowledging the search "clearly suggests that the decision to raid Mar-a-Lago, a mere 90 days before the 2022 midterm elections, involved political calculations aimed at diminishing the leading voice in the Republican party, President Trump."
The lawsuit argues that the government's handling of the search warrant raised fundamental Fourth Amendment concerns, a reference to the part of the U.S. Constitution that shields citizens from "unreasonable searches and seizures" without showing due cause for such actions.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ says some privileged docs identified in seized Mar-a-Lago records