Records seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Florida home can be reviewed by a neutral third party at a rate of about 500 documents each business day, the Justice Department said in a court filing, as the former president’s lawyers again avoided dealing with claims he declassified them.
A third-party vendor should be hired to scan and upload the roughly 11,000 documents to a secure and customizable database in the presence of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, the DOJ said in a proposal filed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn. The vendor can then release the documents on a rolling basis to Trump’s lawyers for their review, the government said. That would mean the process would take about a month.
The review requires Trump to categorize the seized materials as presidential records or personal records, assert any privileges that the former president believes apply, and record those positions document-by-document in logs.
New York federal judge Raymond Dearie, who was selected as the “special master,” is overseeing the review and will issue recommendations on disputes over privilege. Dearie has scheduled a hearing in the matter for Tuesday.
“The vast majority of documents should be easy to categorize as presidential or personal records,” the DOJ said in the filing.
The special-master case has emerged as a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s criminal probe into whether Trump broke any laws by carting away dozens of boxes of White House records after leaving office, including hundreds of documents with classified markings. The review could trigger even more litigation if the parties disagree with Dearie’s findings, even as Trump weighs a possible 2024 run for the White House.
Trump’s lawyers offered their own ideas about the process in a separate filing Monday night. They argued the former president should not be forced to reveal during the review process whether he intends to claim that he declassified any of the highly sensitive documents that were seized — one of the defenses being deployed by Trump and his allies in public remarks.
“Otherwise, the special master process will have forced the plaintiff 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,” Trump’s lawyer James Trusty said in the filing.
Trump also opposed compressing the timeline for the review of the documents, saying it should be done on a schedule to comply with a Nov. 30 deadline set out by a Florida judge.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon issued an order late Thursday appointing Dearie as special master, after earlier granting Trump’s request for the neutral review. The government has said Trump had no right to such a review and appealed part of the order that blocks investigators from using about 100 seized documents bearing classified markings in their ongoing criminal probe.