Judge Raymond Dearie, the “special master” appointed to go through the presidential documents seized from Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home, circulated what’s called a “draft case management plan” among the parties involved ahead of the preliminary conference that was held Tuesday afternoon at his Brooklyn courthouse.
According to the court filing, the draft case management plan “requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government.” Trump’s attorneys responded that their client would do better to wait for a “Rule 41” motion “that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property.” Such a motion assumes that in order for documents to be brought back to Mar-A-Lago, they would have to have been ruled declassified, so those two issues would be taken up together.
Trump has claimed that he personally declassified documents that had been previously marked classified, by his authority as President. (Of course, some other documents might be protected under attorney-client privilege.) If the special master is looking for evidence that Trump did declassify those documents while he was still President, we wonder what form the special master thinks that proof should take. Would it be enough, for example, for former White House aide Kash Patel to say under oath what he has said publicly, that he was there when Trump was at the White House and witnessed him doing this?
Margot Cleveland has written an outstanding summary of what’s happened since U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed Judge Dearie last Thursday. The best thing you could do to understand all the legal angles here would be to read her piece. She argues that trust in our ‘Justice’ Department has fallen so far that their appeal to the 11th Circuit Court to dispense with the special master should be denied. The arguments they’re sticking to on this have already been rejected by Judge Cannon, she says; they offer nothing new that’s persuasive.
The DOJ also fails to make their case that the 100 documents purportedly marked “classified” should be withheld from view by the special master. Judge Cannon has already said that she is unwilling to “adopt” the Government’s premise that those documents are necessarily classified. Cleveland elaborates on this, saying that some of them might not even bear marks of classification, and those that do might have been classified at one time but no longer need to be a state secret. (Example: the itinerary for Trump’s November 2019 trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops.) She also cites what might be copies of Crossfire Hurricane documents that Trump has already publicly declassified. If those are included in the 100 supposedly “classified” documents, not only are they NOT CLASSIFIED, they are Trump’s personal property. These possibilities require the decision of a special master; the court can’t just take the government’s word.
Might it be copies of Crossfire Hurricane documents –- again, not classified and the President’s personal property –- that the ‘Justice’ Department is really most interested in? For all we know, those papers were the actual reason for the raid; there’s good reason to suspect it. And if that’s the case, it makes sense that they SURE wouldn’t want some judge to see them, especially after they’ve made such a big deal about “national security.”
That’s the one way I can think of that letting someone else see the “classified” documents might actually cause the DOJ harm. The catch is, it’s also the one reason they can’t admit to the court.