Trump defense attorney: Special master needed to restore confidence in DOJ
West Palm Beach, Florida, Sep 1 (EFE).- Defense attorneys for former President Donald Trump on Thursday in court defended their call for the appointment of a “special master” to review the documents the FBI seized from their client’s Florida home earlier this month.
During a hearing held in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, newly retained Trump attorney Christopher Kise said that a special master would help “restore public confidence” in the US Department of Justice, saying that the judge was in a “challenging … (and) unique position” to do so and adding that the “temperature is very high on both sides” and there is a “significant lack of trust between both parties.”
He also played down any potential legal or national security risks Trump may have created by taking top secret and other classified documents to Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House in January 2021, arguing that the documents were stored “at a location that was used frequently during his time in office.”
Kise also minimized Trump’s taking the documents and then refusing for 18 months to return them to the US government, comparing them to “overdue library books.”
The attorney is the former Florida solicitor general and joined Trump’s legal team earlier this week.
At the close of the hearing, the judge who is reviewing Trump’s request for a special master, Aileen Cannon, who a few days ago announced she was contemplating designating a special master, said that she will make her decision known “in due course” in a written ruling.
Also present at the Thursday hearing was Jay Bratt, with the DOJ National Security Division, who said that the investigation was motivated by the “illegal possession of classified material” by Trump at his Florida residence and exclusive social club.
The FBI raided the complex on Aug. 8, recovering hundreds of classified documents that Trump was keeping there illegally. Those documents properly belong to the US government and should remain in its hands.
Bratt asked the court to accept the legality of the FBI raid due to the fact that it was motivated, and a search warrant granted, because agents suspected that evidence of three federal crimes would be found there.
Lawyers for the ex-president reiterated their assertion that a special master needs to be appointed not only to supervise which documents may have been covered by attorney-client or executive privilege and thus can be separated from the investigation, but also so that he/she can review the inventory of everything the FBI removed from Trump’s residence.
In turn, DOJ lawyers said that it is “unnecessary” to designate a special master and that doing so would simply delay and/or slow down the investigation.
The Attorney General’s Office brought to the courtroom two members of the team responsible for identifying and selecting material possibly covered by attorney client privilege, a total of “520 pages” of documents that they said they had used broad criteria to categorize as such.
Trump’s legal team called for the appointment of a special master last week in their first official response to the Mar-a-Lago raid.
The raid was launched after Trump and his legal team delayed for months returning classified documents that he had in his possession but which legally should have been in the hands of the National Archives.
Trump’s advisers returned 15 boxes of materials containing classified documents from Mar-a-Lago to the Department of Justice last January, but authorities had developed information from witnesses that more classified materials were still at the Florida resort.
Prosecutors said in a document filed in court on Monday that the FBI had evidence that “obstruction of justice” may have been engaged in at Mar-a-Lago, saying that probably documents were hidden and removed from the storage area at Trump’s home where the documents were being kept.
During their search on Aug. 8, the FBI seized 33 boxes, containers or items of evidence both from the storage area as well as from Trump’s office, according to the court document.
Bratt said on Thursday that the investigation revolves around some 300 documents marked classified, to which executive privilege cannot be applied, although that claim was objected to by Trump’s attorneys.
Judge Cannon said in court that there is no law that specifically prevents an ex-president from claiming executive privilege and said that she was leaning toward designating a special master, to which investigators responded that this would hinder their examination of the documents that are part of their investigation until the special master had done so.
After consulting with both sides, the judge said that she would make public a more detailed list of what the agents took from Mar-a-Lago.