By Tierney Sneed, Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN
Lawyers for former President Donald Trump signaled Monday that they oppose having to immediately make disclosures about declassification related to the Mar-a-Lago documents as part of the special master process ordered by a federal judge this month.
In a letter to US District Judge Raymond Dearie, who was tapped to serve as an independent third party to review the documents the FBI seized during a search of the former President’s residence and resort, Trump’s lawyers referenced a non-public draft plan for the review that Dearie circulated among the parties ahead of a status conference set for Tuesday.
The draft plan, according to Trump’s letter, “requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government.”
“We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property,” the letter said, referring to a type of motion that can be filed calling for the return of property that was unlawfully seized in a search.
“Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order,” the Trump team’s letter continued.
In her ruling denying prosecutors’ request for a stay last week, Judge Aileen Cannon ordered that the special master review — conducted by Dearie and involving approximately 11,000 documents — be finished by the end of November. The preliminary conference is scheduled before Dearie on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
In their filing, the former President’s lawyers additionally flagged concerns with the draft plan’s apparent proposal to have the Rule 41 motions litigated in the docket before US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the judge who approved the warrant for the FBI’s search. The Trump attorneys argued that Cannon, a Trump appointee who appointed the special master, intended for that litigation to happen through the special master process, with Dearie’s recommendations ultimately reported to her.
Trump’s lawyers, in their letter to Dearie, also suggested pushing back some of the interim deadlines that were laid out in the draft plan.
“While we have concerns about the inclusion of two aspects within the Draft Plan (timing of any declassification disclosures and briefing regarding reversion to the issuing magistrate), we are otherwise in general agreement with Your Honor’s proposed sequencing but suggest addressing the potential deadlines at tomorrow’s status conference,” the Trump attorneys wrote.
In a separate filing on Monday, the Justice Department proposed a system for the special master to review the documents seized from Trump’s Palm Beach residence and resort.
In order for both the Trump team and prosecutors to evaluate evidence at the same time, prosecutors suggested in the filing that the documents be uploaded to a third-party online platform.
The Justice Department suggested that the third-party vendor “batch out” documents on a rolling basis as they are scanned to both prosecutors and Trump’s defense team. The lawyers should plan to sort through about 500 documents every business day, DOJ said.
As the review begins, prosecutors suggested that Dearie host “weekly reviews” with both parties to “resolve questions and ensure smooth operation of the review process.”
The department also said it would propose a protective order for Cannon’s approval, which makes leaking details from the seized collection punishable by contempt of court “or any other legally available sanction that the Court deems appropriate.”
In its filing, the DOJ noted that if the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals grants its request to block parts of Cannon’s order requiring a special master, Dearie would not be permitted to review the more than 100 documents marked classified.
“If the Eleventh Circuit does not stay the review of the documents with classification markings, the government will propose a way forward,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.
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