Speed Reads

Special Master Treatment

Trump lawyers acknowledge criminal peril from classified documents in 1st filing with special master

Former President Donald Trump's legal team has a busy day Tuesday. They face a noon deadline to respond to the Justice Department's request that the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturn parts of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon's order blocking federal investigators from using classified documents taken from Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on Aug. 8 and her requirement that the Justice Department share those documents with Trump's lawyers, some of whom are potential witnesses in a criminal case

Two hours later, Trump's lawyers and Justice Department attorneys are meeting in Brooklyn with Raymond Dearie, the Cannon-appointed "special master" put in charge of filtering through the seized documents, to discuss how to proceed. 

Both sides submitted their suggestions to Dearie on Monday evening, and Trump's lawyers did not seem too excited about Dearie's plan. They complained that Dearie's Oct. 7 deadline for sifting through the documents was unreasonably short, and they asked him to drop his request they provide evidence for Trump's out-of-court claims that he declassified the documents before leaving office.

Trump asked for a special master and suggested Dearie, and "it's very possible that Trump's team — which liked that Dearie is slow-moving and believed he would think just like they do and base decisions on distrust of the FBI — was projecting," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman suggested.

Cannon didn't specifically ask Dearie to settle the classification question, Trump's team said, and forcing Trump to "fully and specifically disclose" his claims about the documents could harm his defense in the case of "any subsequent indictment" — "a remarkable statement that acknowledges at least the possibility that the former president or his aides could be criminally charged," The Washington Post says.

"Prosecutors and commentators have repeatedly emphasized that despite Trump's public pronouncements that he took these steps, he has yet to make a similar claim in court, and that even if he had it would have little bearing on potential criminal liability," Politico reports. Former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann specifically warned Trump last December that he faced legal peril if he didn't return the government materials he took from the White House, The New York Times reports

Cannon, a Trump appointee, gave Trump "the benefit of almost every doubt as he fought against the FBI's probe," Politico reports. But it seems unlikely either Dearie or the Trump-packed 11th Circuit court will "grant him the same deference."