Mar-a-Lago Documents Included Pardons, Emails, Legal Bills

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(Bloomberg) -- The thousands of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home included a mix of government, business and personal affairs, including analysis about who should get a pardon, call notes marked with a presidential seal, retainer agreements for lawyers and accountants, and legal bills, according to newly disclosed logs created by federal investigators.

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The detailed lists of seized materials were attached to a recently unsealed Aug. 30 report from the Justice Department. A judge had ordered the logs stay under seal but they appeared to be inadvertently posted to the public court docket. They’re no longer publicly visible.

The logs were created by a “Privilege Review Team” that divided potentially privileged material into two categories. The first set of 137 pages consisted mostly of government records, public documents, or communications from outside parties. One 39-page document titled “The President’s Calls” featured handwritten notes and the presidential seal in the upper left corner.

The second list described documents that the filter team believed should be returned to Trump, including a “medical letter” to a doctor and a wide array of materials referring to Trump’s numerous legal entanglements over the years.

Trump has railed against the seizure of the documents at rallies and on his social media site, calling the FBI search an illegal raid. On Tuesday he asked the US Supreme Court to let a special master review 100 documents with classified markings that were taken by the FBI. An appeals court had ruled those documents didn’t need to be reviewed and could be used by Justice Department in a criminal probe of whether government records or classified information were mishandled.

In its Aug. 30 report that included the logs, the Justice Department explained to the judge how the privilege review team did the initial search at Mar-a-Lago. The team was assigned to flag documents that might be covered by attorney-client privilege -- for instance, records that referred to lawyers or legal work.

Those records were set aside and kept separate from Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents managing the criminal probe. The filter team identified 520 pages -- out of what Trump’s lawyers have said is a collection of 200,000 seized pages -- that warranted a closer look, but later determined very few of those could fall under any legal privileges.

Among the apparent government records described by the filter team was an email between the White House and National Security Council regarding the 2019 release of John Walker Lindh, an American convicted of supporting the Taliban.

‘For POTUS Review’

The log shows items titled “Draft 2019 immigration initiative,” “For POTUS Review,” and “Executive Action to Curb Illegal Immigration.” There was an “internal analysis” and packages of materials related to requests for presidential pardons and sentence commutations. Some of the clemency-related documents refer to initials, while others refer to full names of people who ended up receiving clemency from Trump, such as former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The document titled “The President’s Calls” included a note that read, “Message from Rudy,” but it wasn’t clear if that was a reference to Trump ally Rudy Giuliani. There was an unsigned June 2017 letter from one of Trump’s law firms to former special counsel Robert Mueller, contents of a folder marked “NARA letters” -- an acronym for the National Archives and Records Administration -- and emails to a White House account regarding post-election legal action.

Among the 383 pages that were flagged to be returned to the former president were IRS forms and other tax-related documents, invoices for legal work and lawyer-retainer contracts, a settlement between a Trump golf entity and the PGA Tour, an agreement involving his post-presidency media group, communication about Trump’s resignation from the Screen Actors Guild, and a nondisclosure agreement and contract related to Trump’s Save America political action committee.

The Justice Department failed to persuade a judge in Florida that the filter process meant there was no need for an outside special master to go through the documents so the 520 pages are now part of US District Senior Judge Raymond Dearie’s review.

Dearie’s work is under way but the parties were alerted on Tuesday that a status hearing scheduled for Oct. 6 would be pushed back. The judge didn’t set a new date.

Trump’s lawyers and a Justice Department spokesperson didn’t return requests for comment.

The case is Trump v. USA, 9:22-cv-81294, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).

(Updates with status hearing date in penultimate paragraph)

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