FBI: Some Trump Mar-a-Lago documents potentially ‘privileged’

Trump legal team has requested a special master to review the seized documents for materials covered by legal privilege.

Donald Trump
With the documents already reviewed by the United States government, it may be too late to fulfil former US President Donald Trump's request for a special master [File: Morry Gash/AP Photo]

The US Department of Justice has said it identified a “limited” number of documents that may “contain attorney-client privileged information” found during its search of former US President Donald Trump’s home earlier this month.

The department said in a court filing on Monday that it had “completed its review of those materials” after a judge expressed “preliminary intent” to grant Trump’s request for a special master who would oversee the review of documents taken during the August 8 search of the Mar-a-Lago estate.

Monday’s filing by the Justice Department suggests that with the materials already reviewed, it might be too late to appoint a special master.

Trump’s legal team had sued the Justice Department last week to block “further review of seized materials by the Government until a special master is appointed”. The lawsuit is also seeking a “more detailed” property receipt from the search.

The Justice Department also confirmed on Monday that the US intelligence chief’s office is reviewing the classification of documents seized in the search.

“The Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) are currently facilitating a classification review of materials recovered pursuant to the search,” the court document reads.

“As the Director of National Intelligence advised Congress, ODNI is also leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials.”

The department is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s possible mishandling of classified information after leaving office.

An affidavit released last week revealed that United States authorities sought to search the former president’s home to retrieve secret government documents, including materials possibly containing “National Defense Information”.

The court records showed earlier this month that the FBI seized some top secret documents from Trump’s home, but they did not provide details about the information they might contain.

“Top secret” is the highest level of classification of US government documents, and US law prohibits making public or mishandling classified documents. Trump has said he declassified all documents that were at Mar-a-Lago, though there does not appear to be any written evidence of that.

The search of Mar-a-Lago spurred a firestorm of Republican criticism against the FBI and the Department of Justice, with several GOP lawmakers accusing the Biden administration without evidence of investigating Trump for political reasons.

President Joe Biden has denied having prior knowledge of the search and insisted that the White House does not interfere in Justice Department-led investigations.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies