WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The special master appointed to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago appeared skeptical about former President Donald Trump’s claims that he had declassified the highly sensitive documents.
- The special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie, was appointed as requested by Trump.
- “My view is you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie said to Trump’s legal team.
The special master appointed to review the documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago appeared skeptical of the claims that former President Donald Trump has declassified the top secret documents. This signaled early on that the Trump team would face an uphill climb.
Initially, the appointment of Judge Raymond Dearie as special master looked like a legal victory for Trump’s camp after Judge Aileen Cannon appointed him. Dearie was one of Trump’s special master pick.
Trump’s legal team believed Judge Dearie’s role on the secretive FISA court made him a deep skeptic of FBI operations, appealing to the former president.
Today’s hearing, however, revealed that his seven years on the FISA court have made him more knowledgeable about classification controls and the importance of the United States’ secrets.
Trump team’s expectation that Dearie would be slow-moving can backfire. The judge’s draft plan for the document review envisions the “inspection and labeling process” being finished by Oct. 7.
Judge Dearie repeatedly asked Trump’s legal team to provide proof for the former president’s claims that he declassified the documents before they were seized from his Florida estate. Trump made these claims on social media and never in court.
“This is not a criminal case. The plaintiff has the burden of establishing his right to relief,” Dearie told the courtroom.
The Justice Department has pointed to classification markings revealing the documents contained highly sensitive national security secrets. Trump’s legal team has refused to provide evidence of declassification.
The lawyers argued that providing evidence could mean disclosing Trump’s defense to a potential indictment in the future.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie stated after asking Trump’s lawyers what they expect him to do. “My view is you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
The delay in the appointment of a special master and the argument over declassification only indicate that Trump could potentially face the very real threat of an indictment.