Judge Raymond Dearie – the special master in charge of reviewing the materials seized by the FBI during their raid on the Mar-a-Lago residence of former United States President Donald Trump – has asked Trump’s lawyers to make it clear if the documents were declassified at any point.
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This was an argument brought forward by Trump’s lawyers earlier and the judge asked them to officially state their stance on the matter. If the Department of Justice can prove that the documents were classified, the arbitrator can allow them to examine all documents as part of the investigation.
“If the government gives me prima facie evidence (a legal term meaning a fact presumed to be true unless disproved) that this is classified, and you decide not to advance a claim of declassification … as far as I’m concerned that’s the end of it,” Dearie told Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
However, Trump’s lawyers have said that they will not make their position clear immediately.
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On August 8, the FBI searched the Florida residence of the former US President after speaking to witnesses who told them about the presence of classified documents and “proof of obstruction of justice”, according to an affidavit filed by the Department of Justice. The affidavit also claimed that around 100 documents found during the search had “classified” markings on them.
The argument was put forward by Trump himself on social media as he hinted that the documents were declassified by him during his time as president. However, with the DOJ looking to charge him with mishandling of classified state documents, the lawyers have not used this as an official argument.