(Bloomberg) — The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had turned over the bulk of documents seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to the former president’s legal team, starting a 21-day clock for Trump to decide — and officially declare — precisely which records he wants off-limits in a criminal probe.
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Trump’s legal team will have the next three weeks to go through the thousands of pages of documents and produce a spreadsheet detailing claims they want to press for why the government shouldn’t be allowed to use specific materials in its investigation. Those could include claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, or that certain presidential records should be considered “personal” under federal law.
The Justice Department has disputed that Trump, as a former president, could claim executive privilege or successfully argue that government records he hadn’t turned over to the National Archives after leaving office were “personal” under the Presidential Records Act. The government has also argued that a special filter team already did a sweep for any legal documents that might be protected.
The court-appointed special master tasked with overseeing this process, US District Senior Judge Raymond Dearie, also received the documents from the Justice Department this week, according to the notice.
Dearie is already looking at Trump’s claims of attorney-client and attorney work-product privilege over several documents that a government filter team originally flagged during the search.
The Justice Department’s updated inventory of what was seized from Mar-a-Lago listed more than 13,000 government records — including some bearing classified markings — news clippings, books, articles of clothing, and empty folders.
Not included in what the government has shown to Trump’s lawyers and Dearie are approximately 103 documents that the Justice Department said feature classified markings. Trump has asked the US Supreme Court to revive the special master’s authority to look at those documents.
Trump’s lawyers had said in an earlier court filing that they’d been told by government lawyers that the seized records totaled more than 200,000 pages. A spreadsheet filed in court on Wednesday by the Justice Department indicated a smaller page count, noting 21,792 “Bates” stamped pages across the 33 boxes and other document collections.
Once Trump’s challenge list is complete, his lawyers and the Justice Department will have another 10 days to figure out where they disagree. Dearie will go through those disputes and make recommendations to US District Judge Aileen Cannon about who should prevail. His deadline to finish is Dec. 16. Cannon will then decide whether to accept Dearie’s findings and enter a final order.
This week’s production kicks off the core component of Dearie’s work. The veteran Brooklyn-based judge had originally suggested having Trump go through the documents in smaller batches and identify areas of disagreement with the government on a rolling basis. Cannon rejected that approach in her scheduling order, instead asking for a “comprehensive” report from Trump’s lawyers 21 days after the government formally notified the court that it had turned over all of the documents.
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