Having taken over the investigation of the Mar-a-Lago documents last month, the special master has ordered the lawyers of former President Donald Trump to produce evidence to support their out-of-court claims that the FBI planted evidence at the property during their search. During a filing Thursday, Judge Raymond Dearie, the court-appointed special master, stated in a letter that Trump’s team must submit a sworn declaration stating if they believe that the Justice Department included any items that were not seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago in its “inventory” of materials taken from Mar-a-Lago.
Defendant Trump’s legal team has been ordered by the United States judge assigned to review the documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month to provide evidence to support his unsubstantiated claim that FBI planted some of the files.#TrumpCoupAttempt #FBI #MarALago pic.twitter.com/TbARkDzrGj
— Live News Now (@LiveNewsNow6) September 23, 2022
A copy of the Detailed Property Inventory must be included with the declaration, as well as a list of any specific items mentioned in it that Plaintiff claims were not seized during the search on August 8, 2022, according to the order issued by Dearie. There is some evidence that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago during the search on August 8. Trump, several of his lawyers, and several of his outside conservative allies have publicly claimed this.
FBI Planted Evidence During Search – Trump
However, no evidence has been delivered to substantiate these allegations. As part of Thursday’s order, Dearie outlined a plan for how the special master review will proceed, two days after holding his first in-person meeting with federal prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers. Trump suggested Wednesday night that evidence was planted in the search by the FBI. In response to Sean Hannity’s question, he asked, “Did they drop anything into those stacks of Mar-a-Lago materials, or did it happen later?” When Hannity asked Trump if a video existed, he replied, “No, I don’t think so.”
In this case, the judge gave Trump’s lawyers a deadline of September 30, before which they must submit the sworn declaration. Additionally, he requested the DOJ to submit statements attesting to critical facts associated with the search that was key to his inquiry. FBI officials have previously declined to comment on allegations of impropriety and fraud during the search. A reporter asked FBI Director Christopher Wray last month about the possibility that federal agents planted evidence. Wray responded, “That’s not something I can discuss, so I recommend you contact the Justice Department.”
Witnesses Testify About Documents with Dearie Opening the Door
As outlined in a Thursday order, Dearie authorized holding a hearing to call “witnesses with knowledge of the relevant facts” to testify about the search at Mar-a-Lago and the materials seized from the property. The Trump team could be facing a put-up-or-shut-up situation in this regard since they have made various public statements about alleged government improprieties outside of court but have been much more restrained in court, where knowingly lying would be a criminal offense.
A copy of all seized materials – except those marked confidential – must also be provided to Trump’s lawyers by Monday. This inquiry aims to help Trump’s side determine what materials were taken from Mar-a-Lago and which materials should be protected by the attorney-client privilege or executive privilege. President Trump’s team must review all documents before October 14, but they will have to send “rolling” batches of their privilege designations throughout the process. Dearie ordered that both sides finish their reviews by October 21 and submit their final designations to him.
Additionally, the judge hinted that the Justice Department, a part of the executive branch, could still review some documents covered by executive privilege. However, there are key reasons federal prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to view these privileged documents as part of the investigation – which is more nuanced than what Trump’s team has offered. Dearie also suggested that some proceedings be sent back to Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the search warrant after finding probable causes to search Mar-a-Lago. Trump supporters have since harassed this judge with death threats and online vitriol, and Trump has made several false statements about him on public forums.
The Retired Judge Asked to Assist in Review
In addition, Dearie has engaged a retired federal judge from the Eastern District of New York to help him in his review, and he will also work with staff from the Eastern District of New York on the review of materials. According to Dearie, James Orenstein, the judge appointed to the case, “has extensive experience with complex case management, privilege review, warrant procedures,” as well as other pertinent topics, and he has a top-secret security clearance, which makes him the ideal choice for the job.
His biography page stated that Orenstein served on the prosecution team in the Oklahoma City bombings trials at the law firm where he previously worked. Former AG Merrick Garland also played a significant role in the Oklahoma City investigation. Due to his employment as a federal judge, Dearie declined to seek additional compensation as the special master. Based on a prior court ruling in the case, Orenstein was to receive $500 an hour, which Trump would cover.