The “special master” appointed to review the records seized during the unprecedented FBI raid of Donald Trump’s home grilled the former president’s lawyers about the classification status of the files during a short hearing in New York on Tuesday.
Judge Raymond Dearie told Trump’s legal team, “you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Politico reported.
“Special master” grills Trump
Trump’s lawyers have said that elaborating on the classification issue would expose Trump’s potential criminal defense in the event he is charged. But Dearie’s first comments on the investigation suggest he didn’t find the argument persuasive.
The hearing came after Trump’s lawyers responded to the Justice Department’s request for an appeals court to partially overrule judge Aileen Cannon’s order blocking the government from using the allegedly classified records in its investigation — until Dearie’s review is done.
In their filing to the 11th Circuit appeals court, Trump’s lawyers said the government was seeking to avoid oversight of its “unprecedented and misguided” probe, which the Trump team likened to a “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control.”
“The Government has criminalized a document dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that simply provides much-needed oversight,” the filing said.
In their filing, prosecutors said that Trump has yet to supply evidence he declassified the records and that Cannon “erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”
Special master seems to side with DOJ
But Trump’s lawyers say the government has not proven that the records are classified and that they are making broad assumptions about Trump’s right to possess the records.
Trump has a “cognizable interest in his own Presidential records,” the filing says, adding that the government is dismissing the possibility that documents marked classified contain privileged information.
“For example, the partially unredacted search warrant affidavit states that certain documents with classification markings allegedly contain what appears to be President Trump’s handwritten notes. Those notes could certainly contain privileged information,” the filing said.
As for the government’s pearl-clutching about “national security,” Trump’s lawyers pointed to ongoing unauthorized leaks about the records investigation.
However, Dearie told Trump’s team Tuesday that if they do not show the records are declassified, “as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”