Mar-a-Lago special master orders Trump team to back up any FBI ‘plantation’ evidence claim

The special master overseeing the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents has ordered attorneys for former US President Donald Trump to back up out-of-court claims that the FBI may have planted evidence on the property during its search last month.

Judge Raymond Dearie, the court-appointed special teacher, said in a presentation thursday that the Trump team must submit an affidavit saying whether they believe the Justice Department included items in its “inventory” of materials taken from Mar-a-Lago that were not seized during the search.

The statement must include “a list of the specific items set forth in the Detailed Property Inventory that Plaintiff asserts were not seized from the Premises on August 8, 2022,” Dearie wrote in the order.

This has emerged as an issue in the case because Trump himself, some of his lawyers, and several of his outside Republican allies have publicly claimed that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago during the August 8 search.

However, they have offered no evidence to support these accusations.

Dearie’s new order Thursday came two days after she held her first in-person hearing with Trump’s lawyers and federal prosecutors, detailing her plan for how the special master review will move forward.

On Wednesday night, Trump suggested the FBI planted evidence during the search. He asked Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “Did they dump anything in those piles” of materials taken from Mar-a-Lago, “or did they do it later?”

Asked by Hannity if there was a video of it, Trump said, “No, I don’t think so.”

The judge set a September 30 deadline for Trump’s lawyers to file this affidavit. He has also asked the Justice Department to produce statements certifying key facts related to the search.

The FBI has previously declined to comment on allegations of wrongdoing during their search. Asked by a reporter last month about the claim that federal agents might have planted evidence, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s not something I can talk about, so I will forward it to the (Justice) Department.”


Dearie opened the door in an order Thursday for a hearing where “witnesses with knowledge of the relevant facts” could be called to testify about the search for Mar-a-Lago and the materials that were seized.

If this happens, it could become a closing moment for the Trump side, which has made a wide range of statements about alleged government wrongdoing out of court, but has been much more moderate in court, where it would be a crime to lie. knowingly.

The Justice Department must also provide Trump’s attorneys with “copies of all seized materials,” except those marked as classified, by Monday. This is necessary so the Trump side can find out exactly what was taken from Mar-a-Lago and determine what materials they believe should be protected under attorney-client or executive privilege.

The deadline for the Trump team to finish reviewing all documents for potential privilege designations is Oct. 14, though they will be asked to submit “rolling” batches of their designations down the road. Dearie directed both sides to finish their reviews and send him their final designations by Oct. 21.

The judge also noted that there could be some documents that are covered by executive privilege but can still be reviewed by the Justice Department, which is part of the executive branch. This would be a more nuanced view than what the Trump team has offered, which is essentially that federal prosecutors should not be allowed to see these privileged documents or use them as part of the investigation.

Dearie also raised the possibility of sending some of the proceedings to Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the search warrant after discovering there was probable cause for multiple crimes taking place at Mar-a-Lago. That judge has since become the target of death threats and online criticism from Trump supporters, and Trump has publicly pushed several false claims about him.


Dearie also hired a retired federal judge from the Eastern District of New York to assist in her review and will also have staff from that district to work on reviewing the materials.

Dearie said the judge, James Orenstein, “has experience handling complex cases, privilege review, warrant proceedings” and other relevant issues, and currently holds a top-secret security clearance.

The biography page at the law firm where Orenstein previously worked says he served “on the prosecution team in the Oklahoma City bombing trials.” Attorney General Merrick Garland played a prominent role early in his career in the Oklahoma City investigation.

Dearie said he will not seek any additional compensation for serving as a special teacher because he is currently on the US government payroll as a federal judge. But he proposed that Orenstein be paid $500 an hour, which Trump would cover, according to an earlier court ruling in the case.

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