OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The special master overseeing the records dispute between former President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice does not want to see classified records.
“Let’s not belittle the fact that we are dealing with at least potentially legitimately classified information. The government has a very strong obligation, as all of us, to see it to that information doesn’t get in the wrong hands,” said U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie during a federal court hearing.
“It’s not just a matter, it seems to me, of being cleared. It is a matter of need to know. And if you need to know, you will know,” said Judge Dearie. “That’s the way I see it. If I can make my judgments without—I don’t want to see the material—it’s presumably sensitive material. If I can make my recommendation to Judge Cannon, right or wrong, without exposing myself or you to that material, I will do it. On the other hand, if I can’t, we have to take another alternative.”
Dearie’s comments came during the first hearing held since U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, selected him to serve as the special master.
“I believe we have a need to know, absolutely,” James Trusty, one of Trump’s attorneys, told Dearie during the hearing.
“The U.S. government says it took 103 documents marked classified from Mar-a-Lago in August, along with over 11,000 non-classified documents. The government is trying to shield the documents from Trump’s lawyers and Dearie, while Trump’s team says it wants to see the papers,” the Epoch Times further reported.
“He said that issues surrounding the lawsuit Trump filed against the government cannot be fully addressed without having some access to the materials. Trusty holds security clearance. He requested expedited clearance for other lawyers on Trump’s team, who do not have clearance as of now, to enable them to also see the documents marked classified, which Trump has said he declassified,” the outlet added.
Judge Cannon ordered Dearie to review “all of the materials” seized by the FBI during the August raid of Mar-a-Lago and to confirm the latest inventory disclosed by the government is accurate.
Dearie apparently took a different view of Judge Cannon’s order, saying she asked him to “address the classification status of the seized documents.”
Trusty said he was astounded that the DOJ had argued that Trump’s lawyers don’t have a need to know or see the documents.
“It’s kind of an amazing juncture to be dismissive of even one attorney having access to the documents that form the justification for their raid,” he said.
Late on Wednesday night, a three-judge appeals court panel granted the DOJ’s request to “block aspects of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that delayed a criminal investigation into highly sensitive documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate,” Politico reported.
The panel ruled that Judge Cannon erred when she prevented prosecutors from using documents marked as classified recovered from Trump’s estate as part of a criminal inquiry.
Trump “has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents,” the panel ruled. “Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents.”
“For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the appeals court wrote.
It’s unclear what happens next.
Trump could potentially request the full bench of that court to reconsider the government’s motion.
Trump could also seek emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.