US says it's reviewed documents seized in Mar-a-Lago search

Hearing set for Thursday in federal court
Trump Mar-a-lago FBI
Posted at 11:26 AM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 18:13:42-04

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has completed its review of potentially privileged documents seized from former President Donald Trump's Palm Beach estate this month and has identified "a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information," according to a court filing Monday.

The filing from the department follows a judge's weekend order indicating that she was inclined to grant the Trump legal team's request for a special master who would oversee the review of documents taken during the Aug. 8 search of the Mar-a-Lago estate and ensure that any that might be protected by claims of legal privilege be set aside.

In revealing that the department had completed its review of potentially privileged communications, law enforcement officials appeared to be suggesting that the appointment of a third-party special master might now be moot.

Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in civil investigation.
Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in civil investigation. A newly released FBI document helps flesh out the contours of an investigation into classified documents at Trump's Palm Beach estate. But plenty of questions remain, especially since half the document was blacked out.

The department had been relying on a specialized team to filter out potentially privileged communications and said Monday that it had completed its review of those materials before the judge's order.

RELATED: Highly classified documents improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago, affidavit says

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said on Saturday that it was her "preliminary intent" to appoint a special master — which would be an early procedural win for the Trump legal team — but gave the department an opportunity to respond and scheduled a Thursday hearing to discuss the matter further.

The judge also directed the Justice Department to submit under seal a more detailed description of the materials that were seized from Trump's estate in Palm Beach, something the department on Monday said it would do.

Attorney Valentin Rodriguez speaks about the special master in the Trump, Mar-a-Lago case
"In a criminal case there is no provision for a special master so this is sort of unheard of," Attorney Valentin Rodriguez said. "The reason for that is because criminal evidence is so protected."

Attorney Valentin Rodriguez said special masters are usually legal experts who are used in civil cases.

The former president's attorneys want the special master to filter out items they say are not connected to the search warrant and the FBI should not have taken.

"I think it's a very elaborate fishing expedition where they’re trying to take the process out of the criminal justice system and send it to a special master where they have more control," Rodriquez.

Former assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein said the justice department -- according to the affidavit released last week -- was already filtering documents.

Former assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein speaks on Mar-a-Lago search, Aug. 29, 2022
Former assistant U.S. Attorney David Weinstein shares his thoughts on the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago in the FBI investigation.

"We can see from the document that DOJ recognized that issue from the beginning," Weinstein said. "As to the attorney-client privilege communication, they recognized it and set up a process and procedure whereby they walled off the law enforcement team from people who were searching for these documents."

Weinstein also adds that it's possible that some of the documents taken may already have been submitted as evidence.

"The fact they are collecting records and the fact there are additional parts of this document that are redacted seems to indicate they have already gone to a grand jury," Weinstein said.

The Department of Justice filed paperwork Monday afternoon stating they have finished the document filtering and separated anything related to attorney-client privilege.