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Trump resists request to declare accuracy of Mar-a-Lago document inventory

The Hill logo The Hill 9/29/2022 Rebecca Beitsch
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Former President Trump’s legal team resisted a request to declare whether an updated inventory released by the FBI of items taken during its search of Mar-a-Lago is accurate.

In a letter written Sunday but made public Wednesday night, Trump’s team sidestepped the request from Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master appointed in the case, at the former president’s request.

“Because the special master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue, plaintiff must object,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

The refusal to meet the court’s request comes as Dearie has pushed Trump’s team to back in court many of the claims Trump has made on television and on his social media platform that the FBI “planted” evidence at Mar-a-Lago and that he declassified the documents found there — a reason that matters little for the crimes the Justice Department is contemplating.

The FBI posted an updated inventory on Monday night that contained slightly different figures about the number of documents in each box, but was largely the same as the inventory first released earlier this month.

The Justice Department referenced Trump’s letter in their own filing before it was made public, saying all of the objections were “without merit.”

“The Special Master needs to know that he is reviewing all of the materials seized from Mara-Lago on August 8, 2022 — and no additional materials — before he categorizes the seized documents and adjudicates privilege claims,” the Justice Department wrote.

The Trump team’s Sunday letter also seeks to avoid instructions from Dearie to detail what type of privilege they believe a document qualifies for. Dearie asked the team to file the documents into six different categories, while the order initially approved by federal District Judge Aileen Cannon asks for just four — only asking for presidential records to be deemed privileged or not privileged.

“The amended case management plan goes beyond that grant of authority,” Trump’s legal team wrote.

The Justice Department pushed back, saying Trump needs to fully participate in the process he requested.

“Plaintiff brought this civil, equitable proceeding. He bears the burden of proof. If he wants the Special Master to make recommendations as to whether he is entitled to the relief he seeks, plaintiff will need to participate in the process,” the government wrote.

The fighting over the inventory and how to categorize the documents comes before Trump’s team has been able to see them. The parties have yet to secure a vendor to scan the documents so that all parties can digitally review them.

The government insinuated that vendors did not want to work with Trump, writing that none of the five companies they reached out to were “willing to be engaged by plaintiff.”

Trump’s team said the issue was the sheer volume of documents. In the Wednesday night letter, they say the nearly 11,000 documents taken during the search include some 200,000 pages.

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