During his first hearing as the special master reviewing documents seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, Judge Raymond Dearie on Tuesday pushed Trump's attorneys to answer whether or not their client declassified the material marked top secret.
The attorneys seemed resistant to Dearie's request that they show proof of Trump declassifying the documents, with one lawyer, James Trusty, saying they also should not be forced to disclose witness statements or declarations at this time. "My view of it is: you can't have your cake and eat it, too," Dearie replied. He said this is a civil action and Trump's team bears the burden of proof, and if they remain silent on the matter, it's likely he will agree with prosecutors who say all of the material is still classified.
FBI agents removed about 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, and several weeks later, Trump's attorneys asked a judge to appoint a special master to review all of the material seized, to see if any are shielded by attorney-client or executive privilege. The Justice Department argued that some of the classified material is so sensitive that many investigators couldn't even look at the documents, and as a matter of national security, they should not be subject to judicial review. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, disagreed, and prosecutors have appealed.