The Justice Department informed a federal judge on Monday that it had finished its assessment of the records obtained in the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s estate Mar-a-Lago, including some data that might be covered by the attorney-client privilege.
The department’s conclusion of its assessment of the records seized from Trump’s vacation property may jeopardise the efforts of his legal team to prevent the DOJ from further investigating the records until a so-called special master can view them.
In a court filing on Monday morning in U.S. District Court in southern Florida, DOJ officials stated that the “limited set” of potentially privileged information was discovered by a team that is kept apart from the investigative team that searched Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, home earlier this month. According to the document, the ‘privilege review team’ has ‘finished its examination of those materials’ and is now ‘address[ing] any privilege challenges, if any]’ The legal notion known as “attorney-client privilege” safeguards the secrecy of conversations between an attorney and their client. The possibly privileged materials were not described in any depth in the DOJ filing.
One Week After Trump Sued to Halt The DOJ
One week after Trump filed a lawsuit requesting that the DOJ not continue its investigation of any records obtained during the raid until a court-appointed “special master” has had a chance to examine them, the agency made public the results of the privilege team’s examination.
Trump-appointed judge Aileen Cannon informed the parties involved on Saturday of her “preliminary desire to appoint a special master” in the matter. By Tuesday, Cannon gave the administration the go-ahead to address Trump publicly. She also scheduled a hearing for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET in a courtroom in West Palm Beach, and she directed the DOJ to file a sealed filing that contains additional information regarding the seized papers.
As a result, senior DOJ counterintelligence official Jay Bratt gave the judge his word that the government would abide by his directives.
The Privilege Review Team, however, “identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information” and “completed its review of those materials,” Bratt noted. “The government notes that, before the Court issued its Preliminary Order, and in accordance with the judicially authorised search warrant’s provisions,” Bratt wrote.
In addition, Bratt stated that the DOJ and the ODNI “are actively coordinating a classification evaluation of information obtained” from Trump’s property. The evaluation of the potential harm to national security that could arise from the disclosure of these materials is being led by the ODNI, the author of the letter noted.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Refused to Respond
Later on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to respond to specific inquiries from journalists regarding the DOJ investigation, stating that the agency is conducting its inquiry independently and “we have not been involved.”
She remarked that neither President Joe Biden nor anyone else in the White House had received a briefing on the subject, but she chose not to comment on any sensitive information created for the president.
The judge who oversaw Trump’s legal complaint is different from the one who authorised the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. The affidavit for that search warrant, which was disclosed on Friday with significant redactions, contained an FBI agent’s explanation of the government’s probable cause to believe the search would turn up evidence of criminality.
In January, the National Archives and Records Administration took 15 boxes of documents out of Mar-a-Lago. According to the affidavit, the DOJ received a referral from NARA the next month stating that the records contained “highly secret information jumbled with other data.” When a president leaves office, all presidential records are required by law to be transferred to the National Archives. According to the affidavit, the FBI opened a criminal investigation after discovering that the 15 boxes contained 184 specific classified documents, 67 of which were marked “confidential,” 92 were tagged “secret,” and 25 were marked “top secret.”
Days following the FBI’s entry into Mar-a-Lago in August, the search warrant was made public. It stated that FBI investigators were searching for evidence of contraventions of the U.S. Espionage Act, statutes against the removal of government records and obstruction of justice.
In the raid in August, the FBI reportedly took at least 20 boxes of goods, including multiple sets of highly classified documents, according to a property receipt that was also made available by the DOJ.