The special master evaluating the materials stated on Tuesday that Donald Trump’s assertions of executive and attorney-client privilege over certain documents that the FBI collected from his Mar-a-Lago property lacked sufficient evidence to decide in his favor.
During a conference call, the special master, senior US district court judge Raymond Dearie, complained that the log of papers that Trump is attempting to withhold from the justice department lacked sufficient information regarding the veracity of the privilege claims.
Dearie urged Trump’s attorneys to explain why they felt the documents might be excluded from the department of justice’s criminal investigation into the potential deliberate retention of national defense information, removal of government records, and obstruction of justice.
Dearie stated, “It’s a little perplexing as I go through the log,” Dearie said. “What’s the expression – ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef.”
The debate on the conference call was the most recent step in the continuing examination, which examines whether any of the 11,000 papers recovered from Mar-a-Lago without classified markings are legally protected and cannot be utilized by prosecutors in the criminal probe.
In response, Trump asked for the appointment of a special master and argued to US district court judge Aileen Cannon in Florida — a Trump appointee – that the justice department should not determine whether some of the records would be covered by executive or attorney-client privilege.
The motion was granted in an exceptional judgment–partly because of Trump’s status as a former president, according to Cannon – which blocked federal investigators from scrutinizing the 11,000 records and an additional 103 classified materials.
To restore access to the 103 papers, the justice department sought to alter portions of Cannon’s judgment, which the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit approved and the US supreme court confirmed last week despite Trump’s objections.
The conference call was limited to debates over privilege regarding a tiny portion of the confiscated papers that remain within the special master’s jurisdiction. Since then, the justice department has disputed the whole appointment of the special master.
The debate might foretell a contentious fight between Trump’s attorneys. They want to restrict which papers can be used in the criminal investigation, and the justice department wants to keep as many documents in play as possible.
On the conversation, Dearie asked Trump’s attorneys to explain how, for instance, a single document could be entitled to executive privilege — a classification applicable to presidential documents – and also be a non-government, personal document.
Dearie stated that unless he is mistaken and he has been wrong before, there’s an inconsistency there. His statement casts doubt on the possibility that a paper could have both descriptions. In addition, the special master asked Trump’s lawyers for more information on the documents they claim are protected by the attorney-client privilege since the special master suggested that some of the documents had been viewed by a third party, which would make the communications no longer confidential.
Dearie was angry that the two parties could not address more issues, at one point accusing the government of failing to state whether one of the papers pertaining to the 2017 special counsel probe had been submitted to the justice department.
A business hired to digitize the confiscated files for the special master review had overstated the page count. The conference call explained why Trump’s legal team had been informed there might be 200,000 pages to analyze, but the real figure was 21,792 pages.