According to a court filing filed Monday by the Justice Department, a “limited set” of documents taken by the FBI during its search of former President Donald Trump’s South Florida home might contain attorney-client information.
According to a filing Monday by Justice Department attorney Jay Bratt and U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez, at least part of Trump’s request may be moot. Federal Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that a privilege review team had examined some of the documents seized from the former president to see if they contained attorney-client privileged information. The team found “a limited set of materials that may contain attorney-client privileged information,” according to the filing.
According to Bratt and Gonzalez, the filter-team procedures were approved in the search warrant, granted on Aug. 5 by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. They referred Cannon to the un-sealed affidavit underlying the search, which laid out the process. According to them, the team is following procedures outlined in an affidavit. Providing a detailed description of the reasons for the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago this month to “address any potential privilege disputes,” wrote Gonzalez and Brat.
As part of the classification review, the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are looking at materials recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago.
Gonzalez and Bratt told the court that the Director of National Intelligence is also leading an evaluation of the possible threats to national security that may be associated with disclosing these materials.
The redacted version of the 38-page affidavit used by the FBI to justify the search of the former president’s Florida home was unsealed by a federal magistrate judge on Friday. According to the FBI, the National Archives and Records Administration found a high-level classified document mixed in with other records in the15 boxes retrieved from the property in January.
According to the FBI’s affidavit, 184 documents were classified within the 15 boxes provided to the National Archives, including 67 marked confidential, 92 marked secret, and 25 marked top secret. An affidavit stated that some documents were marked “HCS,” or HUMINT Control System, designed to protect intelligence derived from clandestine human sources.
According to Trump, the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago is a politically motivated attack by the Justice Department in advance of a possible presidential run in 2024.
Last week, Trump asked Cannon to appoint a “special master” to review the records seized from Mar-a-Lago, claiming that some documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. Special masters are third-party attorneys appointed by courts to oversee certain aspects of a case. According to a preliminary order issued Saturday, Cannon intends to appoint a special master in response to Trump’s request, but she has not yet decided. Moreover, she set a Tuesday deadline for the Justice Department to describe the property the FBI seized from Trump’s Palm Beach residence in more detail.
Trump’s legal team broadly argues that a special master is necessary to ensure that the Justice Department returns any private documents seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Upon discovering potential attorney-client information, the privilege team has three options: to request a determination from Reinhart, withhold the documents from the investigators, or ask Trump to waive the privilege so investigators can review them. According to the DOJ, those procedures had been followed. A similar procedure allows the filter team to transmit any records they deem unprivileged to investigators.