Donald Trump’s lawyers acknowledge possibility of criminal charges against the ex-president and his aides in new court filing – as he and the DOJ prepare to meet special master for FIRST time
- On Monday the lawyers representing Donald Trump wrote to the special master overseeing the investigation into classified documents at Mar-a-Lago
- They for the first time said that the former president could be exposed to criminal charges for his role in the saga
- They argued against some of the requests made by the government and the special master, arguing it could jeopardize any future legal action
- Trump’s lawyers and the government are scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Dearie on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn
Donald Trump‘s lawyers have for the first time admitted that the former president could face criminal prosecution for his actions with the Mar-a-Lago document stash.
In a letter to Raymond Dearie, the special master – independent adjudicator – appointed to oversee the FBI investigation into the documents, Trump’s team on Monday outlined concerns about the inquiry.
Trump’s lawyers wrote that they do not want Dearie to force Trump to ‘fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order’ – a statement indicating that Trump or his aides could be criminally charged.
The FBI are investigating how more than 300 classified documents ended up in Trump’s Florida estate, and why they were removed from the White House when he left, rather than handed over to the national archives.
Donald Trump is seen on Saturday at a rally in Ohio. On Monday his lawyers wrote to the special master, Raymond Dearie, to set out their requests for the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents
Raymond Dearie, a veteran New York judge, has been appointed as special master to oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation
Documents related to the search warrant for Trump’s estate are pictured on August 18
Mar-a-Lago was raided on August 8 by FBI agents
In January the FBI seized the first batch of documents, with a second cache taken away in June. On August 8 agents searched the estate, while Trump was in Manhattan, and took away the remaining files.
Trump, 76, has claimed that he had in place a protocol meaning that any files he removed from the Oval Office were automatically declassified.
But on Monday, Trump’s lawyers tried preemptively to stop Dearie asking about the classification rules.
They argued that Trump might be left at a legal disadvantage if he answered questions about the supposed declassification system at this stage of the process, and objected to Dearie’s request that it ‘disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government.’
Judge Aileen Cannon, the Florida judge presiding over the case who agreed to the special master review of the process, has ruled that Dearie must complete his analysis of the approximately 11,000 documents by the end of November.
The preliminary conference is scheduled before Dearie on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.
Trump’s lawyers, in their Monday letter, said they were ‘in general agreement’ with the timeline, but had some alterations they wished to discuss at Tuesday’s hearing.
They also expressed concern that some parts of the case could be heard by US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the judge who approved the warrant for the FBI’s search. The Trump attorneys argued that Cannon, a Trump appointee who appointed the special master, intended for that litigation to happen through the special master process, with Dearie’s recommendations ultimately reported to her.
In their own filing, the Justice Department did not address how Dearie should review the classified documents.
They urged Dearie to check in with the National Archives and Records Administration — the federal agency charged with maintaining and tracking government records — as he conducts the review, and suggested weekly reviews with both parties to ensure smooth running of the review process.