Mar-a-Lago special master orders Trump team to back up any claims of FBI ‘planting’ evidence

Judge Raymond Dearie, the court-appointed special counsel, said in a Thursday filing that Trump’s team must submit an affidavit stating whether they believe the Justice Department included items in their “inventory.” “materials from Mar-a-Lago that were not seized during the search.

The statement must include “a list of all specific items contained in the detailed inventory of property which the plaintiff claims were not seized from the premises on August 8, 2022,” Dearie wrote in the order.

This emerged as a problem in the case because Trump himself, some of his lawyers, and several of his outside Republican allies have publicly claimed that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago during the search on the 8 august.

However, they did not provide any evidence to support these accusations.

Dearie’s new Thursday order came two days after he held his first in-person hearing with Trump’s attorneys and federal prosecutors, and it sets out his plan for how the special main examination will proceed.

On Wednesday evening, Trump suggested that the FBI filed evidence during the search. He asked Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “Did they drop anything in those ‘piles of material taken from Mar-a-Lago,’ or did they do it later?”

When asked by Hannity if there was a video of this, Trump replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

The judge set September 30 as the deadline for Trump’s attorneys to submit that affidavit. He also asked the Ministry of Justice to submit statements attesting to the essential facts concerning the search.

The FBI previously declined to comment on allegations of improprieties during its research. Asked by a reporter last month about the claim that federal agents may have planted evidence, FBI Director Christopher Wray said: “I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s not something you I can talk, so I’m referring you to the (justice) department.”

Dearie opens the door to witness testimony on the documents

Dearie opened the door on Thursday for a hearing where “witnesses with knowledge of the relevant facts” could be called to testify about the Mar-a-Lago search and the materials seized.

If that happens, it could become a make-or-break moment for the Trump side, which has made a wide range of statements about alleged government improprieties outside of court but has been far more restrained in front of it. the court, where it would be a crime to knowingly lie.

The Justice Department is also required to provide Trump’s lawyers with “copies of all seized documents” – except those marked as classified – by Monday. This is necessary so that Trump’s team can determine exactly what was taken from Mar-a-Lago and determine which documents they believe should be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege.

The deadline for Trump’s team to finish reviewing all documents for potential lien designations is Oct. 14, though they’re required to send “rolling” batches of their designations along the way. . Dearie ordered both sides to complete their reviews and send her their final designations by October 21.

The judge also pointed out that some documents could be covered by executive privilege but can still be reviewed by the Department of Justice, which is part of the executive branch. That would be a more nuanced view than what Trump’s team has offered — which is essentially that federal prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to view these confidential documents or use them in the investigation.

Dearie also discussed the possibility of referring part of the proceedings to Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the search warrant after finding there was probable cause for multiple crimes at Mar-a-Lago. That judge has since become the target of death threats and online vitriol from Trump supporters, and Trump has publicly pushed several false claims about him.

A retired judge asked to help with the review

Dearie has also hired a retired federal judge from the Eastern District of New York to assist with her review and will also rely on staff from that district to work on the document review.

Dearie said the judge, James Orenstein, “has experience handling complex cases, lien reviews, warrant proceedings” and other relevant matters, and currently has a top secret security clearance.

The biography page of the law firm where Orenstein previously worked indicates that he served “on the prosecution team in the trials for the Oklahoma City bombings.” Attorney General Merrick Garland played a prominent role earlier in his career in the Oklahoma City investigation.

Dearie said he would not seek any additional compensation for serving as a special master, as he is currently on the US government’s payroll as a federal judge. But he proposed that Orenstein be paid $500 an hour, which would be covered by Trump, based on an earlier court ruling in the case.

CNN’s Josh Campbell contributed to this report.

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