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Special Master Dearie outlines plan for Mar-a-Lago records review in first hearing with Trump team, DOJ

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Special Master Raymond Dearie held a hearing with former President Trump’s legal team and Justice Department prosecutors in New York on Tuesday and outlined his plan for an independent review of records seized by the FBI during its unprecedented raid of Mar-a-Lago last month.

Dearie called Trump lawyers and lawyers for the government to federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday, and admitted that there is “little time to complete the tasks” he has as special master before the court-mandated deadline of Nov. 30.

“We got a lot to do in a relatively short time,” Dearie said, noting that he was aware there are 11,000 documents to review. “I don’t know what that means in my workflow.”

“We’re going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch,” Dearie said.

TRUMP TEAM TELLS 11TH CIRCUIT MAR-A-LAGO PROBE IS A ‘DOCUMENT STORAGE DISPUTE’ THAT ‘SPIRALED OUT OF CONTROL’

Dearie was appointed as special master last week by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to conduct an independent review of documents from Trump’s private residence. Some of those included classification markings, some were personal, and some are being claimed by the former president’s legal team as covered by executive or attorney-client privilege.

Former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 
(Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Dearie told Trump lawyers that they needed to prove whether documents held at Mar-a-Lago, and later seized by the FBI, were declassified. Trump’s lawyers argued that they should get more time to assert the classification of the documents seized.

Dearie, though, said that the Justice Department gave him “prima facie evidence that these are classified documents.”

During a back-and-forth between Trump lawyer James Trusty and the special master, Trusty suggested Dearie was “going a little beyond what judge Cannon contemplated.”

Dearie replied that he was “taken aback” by that comment, and read part of the order by Cannon, detailing what he is expected to do as a special master.

“I think I’m doing what I’m told,” Dearie said.

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted by in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search by the FBI of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. On Thursday, a federal judge appointed a special master to review the documents. 

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted by in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search by the FBI of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. On Thursday, a federal judge appointed a special master to review the documents. 
(Department of Justice via AP)

DOJ ASKS 11TH CIRCUIT FOR PARTIAL STAY, ALLOWING ATTORNEYS TO USE CLASSIFIED DOCS DURING SPECIAL MASTER REVIEW

As for the declassification of records, Trusty argued that Trump, while serving as the sitting president of the United States, could declassify whatever records he wanted.

“The presidential records act does supersede traditional classification concerns,” Trusty said, adding that presidents “do have unfettered access along with unfettered authority.”

Dearie said if Trump’s lawyers will not assert that records have been declassified and the Justice Department instead makes an acceptable case that they remain classified, then, “as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.”

Trusty said Trump’s team should not be forced to disclose a possible defense, but Dearie replied: “I guess my view of it is, you can’t have your cake and eat it” too.

During the hearing, Dearie asked government lawyers what they would do with classified records if the 11th Circuit does not grant their request for a stay and intervene.

Former President Donald Trump in New York City following the FBI raid at his Mar-a-Lago home. 

Former President Donald Trump in New York City following the FBI raid at his Mar-a-Lago home. 
(Felipe Ramales / Fox News Digital)

The Justice Department asked that the 11th Circuit Court allow it to continue using classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation of the former president.

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Justice Department lawyer and deputy chief of the DOJ’s counterintelligence and export control section of the National Security Division Julie Edelstein suggested the government would consider other appellate options.

Meanwhile, Dearie gave Trump’s team until Friday to pick a third-party vendor to scan, host and provide both parties access to the materials seized by the FBI.

A next conference has not been scheduled as of late Tuesday.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson and David Spunt and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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