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Special Master Challenges Lawyers Over Trump Claim FBI ‘Planted’ Mar-A-Lago Files

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, who is acting as special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, on Thursday demanded that Donald Trump’s lawyers back up another of the former president’s claims: that the FBI “planted” files.

Dearie ordered Trump’s legal team to submit a list of specific items in the Justice Department’s 11-page inventory of documents extracted from the Mar-a-Lago resort town by September 30 – including top secret files – which “the plaintiff claims were not seized from the premises.” They must also submit a list of all seized items that were not in inventory, the order states.

“This submission will be the last opportunity for the claimant to raise any factual disputes as to the completeness and accuracy of the detailed property inventory,” Dearie said.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that FBI agents “planted” files at Mar-a-Lago when they seized several boxes of documents last month from his private club and residence. The boxes had been stashed there by the former president when he left office in January 2021. “Planting information, anyone? Trump asked on his Truth Social platform after the records were confiscated, likely before he saw the inventory list.

Yet Trump also said he and members of his family watched on surveillance cameras as officers searched Mar-a-Lago and removed materials, raising the question of how the FBI could have secretly concealed evidence in same time. Two Trump attorneys were also at Mar-a-Lago during the search, and one of them signed a list of boxes and “miscellaneous top secret documents” that were removed.

Trump’s lawyers have not claimed in any legal filing that evidence was filed. Nor have Trump’s lawyers claimed that any of the documents were declassified by the former president before being removed from the White House – as Trump has insisted.

Only Trump’s staunch ally and former Pentagon official Kash Patel has publicly backed Trump’s claim that he issued a “standing order” to declassify anything removed from the White House. Trump insisted in a Wednesday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that he didn’t need to go through any process to do so and that he had the authority to declassify documents simply by ” thinking about it”.

Dearie on Tuesday ordered Trump’s legal team to back up his claims that he declassified one of the files he took. Nor have Trump’s lawyers presented Trump’s position on this in any legal filing.

The lawyers argued that they did not want to initiate declassification proceedings before a real trial. But Dearie warned that if they don’t even claim the records were declassified and the Justice Department demonstrates that they were, then “as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

He added: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

A special master was appointed at Trump’s request to review about 11,000 pages of documents to determine whether any should be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege. Dearie’s name was submitted by Trump’s legal team.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the Justice Department can resume reviewing seized classified records, blocking part of a stay issued earlier by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon . The appeals court also barred Dearie from checking the documents marked classified.

Cannon, whose decision in favor of Trump protecting the records seized at Mar-a-Lago has been criticized by several legal experts, changed his own order. It now states that material subject to special principal examination no longer includes “approximately one hundred documents bearing classification marks”.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.


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