West Palm Beach, Florida — A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of a detailed list of property seized during the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s residence in South Florida last month, while reserving judgment on the whether to appoint an outside party to review the documents.
Federal prosecutors initially submitted a property receipt to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday, though it was filed under seal. The Justice Department told the court in a separate filing that it was prepared to release the receipt given the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case and provide it “immediately” to Trump.
Trump’s legal team said it has no objection to the disclosure of the detailed inventory. It remained sealed Thursday afternoon.
Last month, the Department of Justice agreed to release a more generalized version of the list, as well as the warrant used to justify the search. This inventory revealed that the FBI seized 11 sets of documents containing items marked as classified, including four sets containing documents marked “top secret”, during the August 8 search at Mar-a-Lago, the property of Trump. .
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing Trump’s trial following the Aug. 8 search, ordered the release of the detailed inventory during a hearing on Thursday. Justice Department lawyers and members of Trump’s legal team appeared for arguments over whether the judge should appoint a “special master” to review documents seized by federal agents.
Cannon did not issue a ruling on the special master from the bench, but said she would issue a written order “in due course.” She seemed potentially inclined to block the Justice Department from accessing seized documents if she appointed a special handler, but seemed willing to allow the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to continue its assessment of the documents for potential national security risks. .
During the hearing, federal prosecutors said an FBI Screening Team, a group of agents tasked with sifting through and setting aside potentially privileged documents, reviewed 520 pages from 64 sets of documents. The files were extracted from a storage room in Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s office, known as “Office 45” by the Justice Department, they said.
Jay Bratt, the top counterintelligence official at the Justice Department, and Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney in Miami, told Cannon that the “vast majority” of records taken in the search were likely non-privileged. , but investigators acted from an “abundance of caution” in separating those that might be.
Bratt also revealed that the morning after the search, Trump’s team asked the Justice Department to appoint a special master, which prosecutors refused. Trump’s team made “no further requests” for a special master until they filed their lawsuit, Bratt said, and were told the screening team was in place.
Jim Trusty, one of Trump’s attorneys, argued that in addition to asserting attorney-client privilege on some records, the former president also asserts executive privilege on others.
The Justice Department, however, pushed back against Trump’s claims that seized documents could be covered by executive privilege, arguing in legal documents and in court that the former president never asserted the privilege. executive privilege over documents recovered by the National Archives and Records Administration in mid-January, nor when he turned over sensitive documents to federal investigators in response to a grand jury subpoena in June.
Federal prosecutors have also argued that an assertion of executive privilege by a former president against a sitting president who waives privilege is untenable because the records belong to the government, not the individual.
On the special master, Trusty called the government’s concerns a “fake boogeyman”, saying the review process “must not take weeks or months”.
“What evil are they worried about? What could justify this objection? Asked Faithful. “They don’t want a mutually respected third party to make sure they got it right.”
Trump’s new attorney, former Florida solicitor general Christopher Kise, appealed to the judge, saying she was in “a unique position to restore order and trust.”
“We must, respectfully, lower the temperature on both sides,” Kise said. “We have to breathe deeply.”
The former president has publicly claimed he declassified much of the material seized, but Bratt said that had no bearing on the violations the Justice Department is investigating.
“The classification is different from national defense information,” Bratt said, referring to records collected by investigators. “We’re dealing with over 300 records here.”
“It was a valid warrant. It was a legal search,” he added.