By ERIC TUCKER and MICHAEL R. SISAK
WASHINGTON (AP) — The independent arbiter tasked with inspecting documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home said Tuesday he intends to push briskly though the review process and appeared skeptical of the Trump team’s reluctance to say whether it believed the records had been declassified.
“We’re going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch,” Raymond Dearie, a veteran Brooklyn judge, told lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department in their first meeting since his appointment last week as a so-called special master.
The purpose of the meeting was to sort out next steps in a review process expected to slow by weeks, if not months, the criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. As special master, Dearie will be responsible for sifting through the thousands of documents recovered during the Aug. 8 FBI search and segregating those protected by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
Though Trump’s lawyers had requested the appointment of a special master to ensure an independent review of the documents, one of the former president’s attorneys, James Trusty, made clear they were concerned that Dearie’s proposed deadlines were too ambitious.
The lawyers are also resisting Dearie’s request for information about whether the seized records had been declassified, as Trump has maintained. In a letter to Dearie on Monday night, the lawyers said that issue could be part of Trump’s defense in the event of an indictment.
But Dearie appeared unsatisfied with that position. He said if Trump’s lawyers will not actually assert that the records have been declassified and the Justice Department instead makes an acceptable case that they remain classified, then “as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”
Trusty said the Trump team should not be forced at this point to disclose a possible defense based on the idea that the records had been declassified. He denied that the lawyers were trying to engage in “gamesmanship” but instead believed it was a process that required “baby steps.”
But Dearie at one point observed: “I guess my view of it is, you can’t have your cake and eat it” too.
Trump has maintained without evidence that all of the records were declassified; his lawyers have not echoed that claim, though they have repeatedly asserted that a president has absolute authority to declassify information, and they said in a …read more
Source:: The Mercury News