A lawyer for former President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of demanding the court “stand down from even considering” appointing a “special master” to review documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago.
Lawyer Lindsey Halligan argued the DOJ’s response underscored the need for a special master.
“While DOJ may have succeeded in taking a partial filter to their rummaged proceeds, the need for a Special Master remains in place,” Halligan wrote in a brief filed ahead of a hearing on Thursday (pdf).
“Assuring access by [Trump’s] counsel to the seized materials, sharing an actual (detailed) inventory, making independent attorney-client privilege assessments, and making executive privilege determinations are all responsibilities that are best served by appointment of a Special Master.”
On Tuesday, the DOJ filed a brief in a federal Florida district court arguing that Trump lacked standing to ask for the appointment of a special master, as well as the return of property that was not within the scope of the search warrant and injunctive relief.
In the brief, U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez said the appointment of a special master would “impede” the federal government’s criminal investigation and “interfere” with the Intelligence Community’s review of any national security risk created by alleged improper storage of “highly sensitive materials” (pdf).
Gonzalez argued that the DOJ’s “filter team” had already completed its work of “segregating any seized materials that are potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.” He also said that a separate “investigative team has already reviewed all of the remaining materials, including any that are potentially subject to claims of executive privilege.”
The DOJ also said that Trump lacked standing for a special master because the records belong to the government and that the 45th president doesn’t have a valid claim to executive privilege because the DOJ is “within the executive branch.”
DOJ Unilaterally Reviewing Documents
But Trump lawyer Lindsey Halligan noted that the DOJ, which is looking for evidence of criminal wrongdoing, is unilaterally reviewing the documents to decide what is or isn’t privileged.
“[The DOJ] has filed an extraordinary document with this Court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating its unjustified pursuit of criminalizing a former President’s possession of personal and Presidential records in a secure setting,” Halligan wrote.
“Now, the Government twists the framework of responding to a motion for a Special Master into an all-encompassing challenge to any judicial consideration, presently or in the future, of any aspect of its unprecedented behavior in this investigation.”
Trump’s lawyer said the DOJ’s response underscored the need for the court to appoint a special master. She also noted an apparent contradiction in the DOJ’s response that it had both already completed a review of the documents and continued to review the documents.
“Never has an argument against ‘interference’ better underscored the need for judicial involvement. All of this in the context of a unilateral filter team operation that to-date has never made any contact with counsel for [Trump], another historic first for DOJ,” Halligan wrote.
“Left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for [Trump] but to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators.”
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon last week signaled in a court filing that she will likely sign off on appointing a special master to review documents that were taken from Mar-a-Lago.
From The Epoch Times