WASHINGTON — Donald Trump got the court-ordered review he wanted of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago home as well as his preferred pick for a so-called special master to carry it out. But less than a month in, the former president has complaints about how that review is taking shape.
Trump’s lawyers lodged objections this week to U.S. District Senior Judge Raymond Dearie’s proposal for how his work as special master will proceed over the next few months, according to a summary by Justice Department lawyers in a Sept. 27 court filing. Among other things, Trump objected to Dearie’s request that his legal team verify the government’s inventory of what exactly agents seized during the August search and how Dearie had categorized various privilege issues he’d be looking for.
The Justice Department pushed back on Trump’s objections, arguing that they were “without merit” and reminding the court that it was the former president who pressed the civil suit.
Trump “bears the burden of proof,” government attorneys wrote. “If he wants the Special Master to make recommendations as to whether he is entitled to the relief he seeks, Plaintiff will need to participate in the process” as outlined by the court.
Trump also objected to the judge’s request for briefing on certain questions of law, according to the DOJ’s letter.
Trump’s lawyers did not return requests for comment; it wasn’t immediately clear how they’d registered their objections to Dearie’s proposed plan for the case, since there wasn’t a filing on the public docket.
Dearie, a semi-retired judge in Brooklyn, is tasked with overseeing a review of nearly all of the 11,000-plus documents seized from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI on Aug. 8. A federal appeals court previously sided with the government and removed about 100 documents with classified markings from the review.
Dearie will make recommendations to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon about whether any of the documents should be covered by legal protections such as privileges for attorney-client communications or for executive branch deliberations. He proposed a schedule for Trump’s legal team and the Justice Department to submit batches of documents to him on a rolling basis where they disagree about how to categorize them; he wants a final log by Oct. 28 and is due to finish his work by Nov. 30.
Dearie’s mandate from Cannon — the judge who ultimately will decide whether to accept Dearie’s recommendations — also includes confirming that the government’s description of what they took from Trump’s Florida home “represents the full and accurate extent” of what was actually seized.
The Justice Department broadly accepted Dearie’s proposal for how to move forward with the review, but did ask for a slight extension to his deadlines for the government to produce documents to the special master and Trump’s legal team. DOJ laid blame with Trump for the delay, writing that all five vendors they proposed to assist with the review were “unwilling” to contract with the former president.
The letter didn’t say why the vendors weren’t willing to contract with Trump. The problem with finding a third party to scan and upload the 11,000 documents at issue prevented DOJ and Trump from meeting a Tuesday deadline for selecting a vendor, the Justice Department said in its letter to Dearie.
DOJ told Dearie that the government could take charge of the contracting process and likely find a willing vendor quickly, and asked the judge to extend the selection deadline to Thursday.
Trump would still be responsible for paying the third-party company. “The government expects Plaintiff to pay the vendor’s invoices promptly when rendered,” the Justice Department said in the letter.
DOJ and Trump’s lawyers jointly asked Dearie to extend the deadline for the vendor completing production to early October “in light of this substantial change in the party contracting with the vendor.”
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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 5:25 PM.