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Trump team urges court to leave Mar-a-Lago umpire in place

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Donald Trump on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to leave in place an independent arbiter who has been tasked with reviewing documents seized by the FBI during an August search of the estate of the former President in Florida.

The Trump team said in a filing that veteran Brooklyn judge Raymond Dearie should continue in his role as so-called special master to ensure public confidence in an investigation involving a Biden administration ‘political rival’ .

“Given the importance of this investigation, it must be conducted in a manner that gives the public confidence in its outcome,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The Court simply should not allow the government to hide these proceedings from public view based on its unverified claims. »

The scope of Dearie’s duties and the basis for his appointment have been points of contention between the Justice Department and Trump’s legal team since he was named to the position in September.

He was instructed by a Trump-appointed judge to inspect the thousands of documents seized in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and to weed out any records from the investigation that might be covered by claims of executive privilege and professional secrecy. .

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, had already reduced some of Dearie’s work, saying the Justice Department did not have to submit for its review the approximately 100 documents with classification marks taken during the search. The court instead limited its review to unclassified records, which the Justice Department says total about 13,000 documents, which the FBI seized.

Last month, the Justice Department asked the appeals court to end the entire special main review process, saying it was an unnecessary obstacle to its investigation. The government argued that Trump had no credible basis for asserting that the seized documents were protected by either solicitor-client privilege or professional secrecy.

But the Trump team pushed back against those arguments, saying Thursday that a special master was essential both to assess any claims of privilege and to determine which of the files seized are personal documents that should be returned to him.

“The government has provided no evidence that its criminal investigation was impeded during the Special Master’s review process,” the lawyers wrote. “There is therefore no compelling reason to allow an investigation of President Trump to continue by the administration of his political rival without the limited judicial review of the district court.”

Meanwhile, the criminal investigation into the handling of the documents is progressing even as Trump plans to announce another bid for the White House.

Last week, Kash Patel, a close ally who claimed he was present with Trump when Trump declassified certain documents as president, testified before a federal grand jury after being granted Justice Department immunity.