The judge asked Trump’s lawyers whether Trump had classified records in the FBI search

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NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge appointed to review documents seized by the FBI last month at Donald Trump’s Florida home put pressure on Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday. He said.

Judge Raymond Dearie — who serves as an independent arbitrator or special master to review more than 11,000 seized documents and may recommend keeping some from federal investigators — asked Trump’s lawyers why the actual classified records should not be considered.

“If the government gives me prima facie evidence (a legal term that is presumed to be true unless proven) it’s classified, and if you decide not to make a classification claim … that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned,” Deary told Trump’s lawyers at his first public hearing.

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Deary, the senior federal judge in Brooklyn whom Trump’s lawyers recommended to serve as special master, did not issue a ruling.

About 100 of the documents that were seized in an Aug. 8 court-authorized search of Trump’s home at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach contained classified identification. Trump’s lawyer, James Trusty, said it was too early to say Trump used his powers to declassify documents while still president — a position Deary suggested weakened the claim.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” the judge said.

At Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump for retaining government records after he leaves office in January 2021. A prejudicial attack.

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Trump said in social media posts that the recordings were classified, but his lawyers avoided the issue in court.

The three statutes underlying the search warrant used by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago make it a crime to tamper with government records regardless of their classification status.

Deary has taken on the task of recommending to Florida-based U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon, who is leading the fight for access to seized documents that may be protected by a legal doctrine of attorney-client confidentiality or executive privilege. A President can keep certain documents or information secret.

Trump’s attorneys have argued that now is not the time to present specific information related to the classification, saying in a letter filed ahead of the hearing that they would be forced to disclose a defense to any subsequent indictment — acknowledging that the investigation could lead to criminal charges. .

Cannon’s order appointing Deary as special master asked him to complete his review by the end of November and prioritize documents marked as classified. The process Cannon set up to have Trump’s lawyer review documents may not have required US government security clearance for members of his legal team.

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Trustee Deary asked the attorneys to allow more members of Trump’s team to obtain formal clearances. Deery said access should only be granted to those who really need to see classified material.

Julie Edelstein, the prosecutor, told the hearing that some of the documents were so sensitive that even some members of the Judiciary Committee were not allowed to see them.

The Justice Department on Friday appealed to the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, part of Cannon’s ruling allowing the special master to examine records marked classified and the judge limiting FBI access to them.

Trump’s legal team on Tuesday opposed the government’s request and called the Justice Department’s investigation “unprecedented and improper.”

The department launched its investigation after the National Archives, the U.S. agency responsible for preserving government records, received 15 boxes of classified documents following Trump’s attempts to retrieve missing government property.

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Reporting by Karen Frefeld and Luke Cohen in New York, Sarah N. Additional reporting by Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham, David Gregorio and Chisu Nomiyama

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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