Special master in Mar-a-Lago case appears skeptical of Trump 'declassification' claims
The special master appointed to review documents seized by federal agents who searched former President Donald Trump's Florida estate appeared doubtful Tuesday
The special master appointed to review documents seized by federal agents who searched former President Donald Trump's Florida estate appeared doubtful Tuesday about Trump's contention that he had declassified the various top secret and other highly sensitive documents found there.
The special master, Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie, had previously asked Trump's attorneys for more information about which of the over 100 sensitive documents federal agents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate might have been declassified. Trump's attorneys had told the judge in a letter Monday night they didn't want to disclose that information yet because it could force them to prematurely "disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment."
During a hearing in a Brooklyn federal court, Dearie noted the current case is a civil dispute, not a criminal one, but that he was taking the government's concerns about national security seriously.
"Let's not belittle the fact that we are dealing with at least potentially legitimately classified information. The government has a very strong obligation, as do all of us, to see to it that that information doesn't get in the wrong hands," Dearie said. While Trump's filing claimed neither side had provided a showing that the documents are classified, Dearie said the government had presented "prima facie evidence" that the documents are, because they bear classification markings.
"As far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it," Dearie said, unless Trump's team has some evidence to the contrary.
Trump has claimed on social media that he declassified all the records he had in his possession, but his lawyers have yet to formally make that argument in any sworn court filings in the case.
Trump attorney James Trusty maintained that "we should not be in a position to have to disclose declarations" and witness statements on the classification issue. Dearie suggested their not doing so could be problematic for their current case.
"My view is you can’t have your cake and eat it," Dearie said.