Trump’s lawyers don’t want to reveal whether he declassified documents in the FBI search

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for former President Donald Trump have resisted revealing whether he declassified materials seized in August during an FBI search of his Florida home as the U.S. judge in charge of reviewing the documents planned to hold his first conference on the matter. The matter is on Tuesday.

Judge Raymond Deere on Monday distributed a draft plan to the two sides that sought details about the documents Trump allegedly declassified, as he claimed publicly and without evidence, though his lawyers have not confirmed this in court files.

In a letter provided ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, Trump’s lawyers said the time was not appropriate and they would compel him to reveal his defense in any subsequent indictment – an admission that the investigation could lead to criminal charges.

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Derry, one of the top federal judges in Brooklyn, has been selected as an independent arbitrator known as the Special Tutor. It will help determine which of the more than 11,000 documents seized on the Aug. 8 search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home should remain from the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into alleged mishandling of the documents.

Dearie, U.S. District Judge Elaine Cannon will recommend documents that may fall under attorney-client privilege or Executive Privilege Confirmation, which allows the president to withhold certain documents or information.

It’s unclear whether the review will go ahead as instructed by Cannon, the Florida judge Trump appointed to the podium in 2020 who ordered the review.

Trump is under investigation for keeping government records, some of which have been marked as top secret, at his Palm Beach resort, his home after leaving office in January 2021. He has denied wrongdoing, and said without providing evidence that he believes the investigation is a partisan attack.

On Friday, the Justice Department appealed part of Cannon’s ruling, seeking to stop reviewing nearly 100 classified documents that a judge restricted access to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors said the judge’s special major review would impede the government from addressing national security risks and require disclosure of “highly sensitive materials.”

On Tuesday, Trump’s legal team submitted its response to the 11th US Court of Appeals in Atlanta, challenging the government’s request and calling the Justice Department’s investigation “unprecedented and misleading.”

Trump’s lawyers, in their 40-page dossier, said the court should not take the Justice Department’s word that the 100 documents in question were in fact still classified, and said the special lord should be allowed to review them as a step toward “restoring order from chaos.”

In Cannon’s order to appoint Derry as special chair, she asked him to finish his review by the end of November. She asked him to prioritize documents marked classified, even though her process requires Trump’s lawyers to review the documents, and Trump’s lawyers may not have the necessary security clearance.

The Department of Justice called the private master operation unnecessary, having already conducted its own attorney-client privilege review and set aside about 500 potentially eligible pages. It disputes the Executive Privilege Review, saying that any such assertion of records would fail.

The FBI search in August came after Trump left office with documents belonging to the government and did not return them, despite numerous requests from the government and a subpoena.

It remains unclear whether the government has all the records. The Department of Justice said some classified material is still missing after the FBI recovered blank files with hashtags from Mar-a-Lago.

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(Reporting by Karen Freifeld), Editing by Sarah N. Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham, David Gregorio, and Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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