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Judge asks Trump's lawyers if he declassified records in FBI search

World Sep 20, 2022 06:02PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 3, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

By Karen Freifeld, Luc Cohen and Sarah N. Lynch

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The U.S. judge named to review documents seized by the FBI last month at Donald Trump's Florida home pressed Trump's lawyers on Tuesday to say whether they plan to assert that the records had been declassified by the former president, as he has claimed.

Judge Raymond Dearie - serving as an independent arbiter, or special master, to vet the more than 11,000 seized documents and potentially recommend keeping some away from federal investigators - asked Trump's lawyers why he should not consider records marked classified as genuinely classified.

"If the government gives me prima facie evidence (a legal term meaning a fact presumed to be true unless disproved) that this is classified, and you decide not to advance a claim of declassification ... as far as I'm concerned that's the end of it," Dearie told Trump's lawyers in his first public hearing on the matter.

Dearie, a senior federal judge in Brooklyn who Trump's lawyers recommended to serve as special master, did not issue a ruling.

Roughly 100 of the documents seized in the court-approved Aug. 8 search at Trump's home in the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach had classified markings. Trump's attorney James Trusty told Dearie it is too early to say Trump had used his powers while still president to declassify the documents - a stance that Dearie suggested weakened the claim.

"You can't have your cake and eat it," the judge said.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump for retaining government records, some marked as highly classified including top secret, at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office in January 2021. Trump has denied wrongdoing and has said without providing evidence that the investigation is a partisan attack.

Trump has said in social media posts that he declassified the records, but his lawyers have skirted the issue in court.

The three statutes underpinning the search warrant used by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago make it a crime to mishandle government records, regardless of their classification status.

Dearie is tasked with recommending to Florida-based U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the fight over access to the seized documents, which records may be protected by attorney-client confidentiality or an assertion of executive privilege, a legal doctrine under which a president can keep certain documents or information secret.

Trump's lawyers argued that now is not the time to present specific information regarding declassification and, in a letter filed ahead of the hearing, said it would force them to disclose a defense to any subsequent indictment - an acknowledgement that the investigation could lead to criminal charges.

Cannon's order appointing Dearie as special master asked him to conclude his review by the end of November and to prioritize documents marked as classified. The process set out by Cannon called for a Trump lawyer to review the documents, a task for which members of his legal team may lack the necessary U.S. government security clearance.

Trusty asked Dearie to urge prosecutors to let more members of Trump's team get proper clearance. Dearie said only those who truly need to see classified material should be granted access.

Julie Edelstein, a prosecutor, told the hearing some of the documents are so sensitive that even some members of the Justice Department team have not been allowed to see them.

    The Justice Department on Friday appealed to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the portion of Cannon's ruling allowing the special master to vet the records marked as classified and the judge's restricting FBI access to them.

Trump's legal team on Tuesday opposed the government's request and calling the Justice Department's investigation "unprecedented and misguided."

The department opened its investigation after the National Archives, the U.S. agency responsible for preserving government records, tried to get missing government property returned by Trump and received 15 boxes with classified documents mixed in.

Judge asks Trump's lawyers if he declassified records in FBI search
 

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Comments (8)
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Sep 20, 2022 6:12PM ET
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even judges and lawyers appointed by the orange criminal can't find ways to defend the indefensible
nick cage
nick cage Sep 20, 2022 6:12PM ET
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Are you buddies with they guy who just iced that kid for being a republican? I bet you loved it radical
gab nea
gab nea Sep 20, 2022 6:12PM ET
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no one believes the orange liar anymore!
gab nea
gab nea Sep 20, 2022 6:12PM ET
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only his duped lackeys believe what he spews, like putin!
First Last
First Last Sep 20, 2022 3:07PM ET
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Whether some documents are classified or not should NOT be like Schrödinger's cat.
gab nea
gab nea Sep 20, 2022 3:07PM ET
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funny you mention that quantum theory!
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 20, 2022 11:52AM ET
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"Donald Trump's lawyers resisted revealing whether he declassified materials seized in an FBI search of his Florida home...."  -- yeah, because he diddn't
rob finch
rob finch Sep 20, 2022 8:43AM ET
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When it comes to draining the swamp there is only one man who can and will do it. you might think he's too crude, too rough, too mean. but he's a swamp drainer and that's what we need.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 20, 2022 8:43AM ET
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The gullible duped by slogans.
Patron Silver
Patron Silver Sep 20, 2022 8:43AM ET
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he did nothing and drained nothing. just spewed lots of hot gas
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 20, 2022 8:43AM ET
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"he's a swamp drainer and that's what we need."  -- based on what, because he said so?  in the last 4 years what "swamp" did he drain?
Adrian White
Adrian White Sep 20, 2022 8:43AM ET
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Trump didn't "drain the swamp". All he did was stir it around and add his own contributions to it. Just look at all the people he chose to work with who have been indicted and jailed.
rob finch
rob finch Sep 20, 2022 8:36AM ET
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Selective enforcement. they can't let this poor guy alone.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 20, 2022 8:36AM ET
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who is "they"?  I thought the Orange Messiah drained the swamp so "they" wouldn't be able to do things like this?
First Last
First Last Sep 20, 2022 8:36AM ET
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Poor people donate to his scammy political funds that he turns into his personal funds.  Trump wants to be in the news to get scam more poor people.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 20, 2022 8:25AM ET
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When I got dismissed from my government job, I took boxes of government records home with me. When the FBI issued a subpoena for them, I only gave some of them back and lied about having any more. The FBI got a search warrant and found the rest in my house. It wasn't a big deal though. I got off with a weekend of community service.
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Sep 20, 2022 8:25AM ET
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But Hillary's server? She had no authority to declassify either.
First Last
First Last Sep 20, 2022 8:25AM ET
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Stephen Fa   Hillary didn't claim she declassified anything.
gab nea
gab nea Sep 20, 2022 7:01AM ET
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judge cannon had to make trump feel like she is helping him, to show him payback for appointing her, otherwise she would not be judge. she owes him her career! another ruined political jurist!
gab nea
gab nea Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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if I steal classified documents, could I get off scott free too? do I get a special master? why not? am I an orange shade darker?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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This is precisely reveals the judge's corruption, in fact, she has admitted as much: Trump is getting special treatment from her because he is a former president. That's not the way it is supposed to work in a system where everyone is supposed to be treated equally under the law. Another degradation of American justice because of Traitor Trump.
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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lol like the Jeff Epstein linked judge that signed the Trump search warrant. Great morning comedy from Bible Brad this morning!
Adrian White
Adrian White Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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Stephen, Epstein didn't appoint the judge, so how is he even relevant in your comparison? Besides, if you're going to mention people "linked" to Epstein then aren't you forgetting your beloved idol?
First Last
First Last Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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Stephen Fa  Magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart had contributed to Republican candidates & is married to Circuit Judge Carolyn Bell, who was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who is now a senator.
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Sep 20, 2022 6:28AM ET
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Yeah, idol Bill Clinton had game with the ladies.
 
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