By Jack Phillips
Former President Donald Trump needs to disclose to a special master the names of lawyers and employees who will get access to documents and materials seized during last month’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, and he does not have to divulge that information to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, in a protective order (pdf) issued late last week, sided with Trump’s lawyers after DOJ lawyers asked the court that Trump’s legal team provide “the names and job titles” of any lawyers or other staff who would review the seized materials.
“The Seized Materials produced by the government are confidential and shall be disclosed to no one other than the Special Master, his staff, admitted [Trump’s] counsel of record in this case, staff supporting Plaintiff’s Counsel (such as paralegal assistants, secretarial, stenographic, and clerical employees) who are working on this case,” the order said.
Trump’s lawyers must give Dearie the “names and job titles of any staff who Plaintiff’s Counsel propose to review Seized Materials,” according to the judge’s order. The judge also authorized that vendors who are “approved by the Special Master or this Court” are able to carry out “scanning, hosting, reviewing, or otherwise processing electronic copies of Seized Materials.”
All the individuals, including vendors, have to sign an acknowledgment of the rules and limitations laid out in his protective order before they can proceed.
“Violations of this Judicial Protective Order shall be punishable by contempt of court or any other legally available sanction that the Court deems appropriate,” Dearie wrote. “All parties to whom Seized Materials are disclosed in accordance with this Judicial Protective Order consent and submit to this Court’s jurisdiction for purposes of enforcing this order.”
Last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the DOJ can resume reviewing allegedly classified material for investigative purposes. The appeals order said that the department doesn’t have to hand over the material to Dearie or to Trump’s lawyers until the appeals court issues its full ruling.
Meanwhile, Dearie gave both Trump’s team and the DOJ until Sept. 27 to enter a contract with a vendor who can store documents and process those documents from paper to an electronic format.
On social media, Trump has maintained that the FBI targeted his Mar-a-Lago estate in a politically motivated attack to harm his future political chances. What’s more, the former president said that he had declassified the documents that were seized by the bureau.
During an interview last week, Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that as president, he had broad declassification powers.
“Different people say different things but as I understand it, if you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it,” he remarked.
“Because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or wherever you’re sending it. There doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be,” Trump continued. “You’re the president … you make that decision.”