'Special Master' Wants to Get a Move On

Raymond Dearie takes issue with Trump team's reluctance on declassification issue
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2022 1:30 AM CDT
Updated Sep 21, 2022 5:01 AM CDT
'Special Master' in Trump Probe Seems Skeptical of Trump Team's Reticence
Donald Trump's attorneys Evan Corcoran and James Trusty walk past media at Brooklyn Federal Court on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in New York.   (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

The independent arbiter tasked with inspecting documents seized in an FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home said Tuesday he intends to push briskly through the review process and appeared skeptical of the Trump team's reluctance to say whether it believed the records had been declassified, the AP reports. “We're going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch," Raymond Dearie, a veteran Brooklyn judge, told lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department in their first meeting since his appointment last week as a so-called special master. The purpose of the meeting was to sort out next steps in a review process expected to slow by weeks, if not months, the criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House.

As special master, Dearie will be responsible for sifting through the thousands of documents recovered during the Aug. 8 FBI search and segregating any that might be protected by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege. Though Trump's lawyers had requested the appointment of a special master to ensure an independent review of the documents, they have resisted Dearie's request for more information about whether the seized records had been previously declassified—as Trump has maintained. His lawyers have consistently stopped short of that claim even as they asserted in a separate filing Tuesday that the Justice Department had not proven that the documents were classified. In any event, they say, a president has absolute authority to declassify information.

“In the case of someone who has been president of the United States, they have unfettered access along with unfettered declassification authority,” one of Trump's lawyers, James Trusty, said in court Tuesday. But Dearie said that if Trump’s lawyers will not actually assert that the records have been declassified, and the Justice Department instead makes an acceptable case that they remain classified, then he would be inclined to regard them as classified. “As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “that’s the end of it.” (Much more here, including Dearie's statement that the Trump team "can't have your cake and eat it," too.)

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