Independent expert questions declassification of Trump documents

(CNN) — Judge Raymond Dearie, the independent expert overseeing the seizure of the Mar-a-Lago documents, told former President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday that if they don’t prove that any of the documents were declassified, he will determine that they are classified.

Out of court, Trump has pushed the claim that he declassified all the documents, and his lawyers have raised that possibility in court papers, though they have never explicitly argued that he did.

Federal prosecutors have argued for weeks that documents seized at Mar-a-Lago that contain classification markings, such as “top secret,” should be treated as if they were classified.

During a hearing Tuesday, Dearie essentially challenged Trump by pointing out that Trump’s lawyers have yet to provide any proof of declassification.

“If the government gives me clear evidence that they are classified documents, and you don’t file a declassification statement, I’m left with a prima facie case of classified documents, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said. .

Trump’s attorney, Jim Trusty, said they are not in a position to fully disclose their defense or specifically address the issue of declassification until they see the documents.

Trump is before the independent expert after suing successfully to obtain the review.

His team had proposed Dearie as a possible candidate for the job, and the Justice Department did not object.

However, since Dearie took office, Trump’s team has noted some objections to the way he had planned to approach the review.

On Monday, Trump’s lawyers noted in a letter to Dearie their reluctance to make certain disclosures about any move to declassify the documents in question. The letter also suggested delaying some of the tentative deadlines that Dearie had proposed.

Dearie is tasked with reviewing the 11,000 documents the FBI seized in its Mar-a-Lago raid last month.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who granted Trump’s request for the independent expert, also prevented the Justice Department from using the seized materials in its criminal investigation while the expert carries out his work. The Justice Department is currently asking an appellate court to partially stay Cannon’s order as it relates to the approximately 100 documents marked classified that the FBI obtained from the record.

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