Trump asking for SCOTUS intervention
Washington — Two itemized lists of documents seized during the FBI's search at former President Donald Trump's Florida residence and segregated by a team of agents screening records for any that may be potentially privileged offered an inside look at how the team works and the wide assortment of things Trump took with him when he left the White House.
The material includes government records regarding clemency requests, notes of Trump's calls, and settlement and retainer agreements, according to logs from federal investigators that were inadvertently unsealed and published by Bloomberg.
The lists were attached as exhibits to an Aug. 30 court filing from the Justice Department that was unsealed Monday and included on the court's public docket. But the two itemized lists were supposed to remain under seal, as ordered by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, and they were soon resealed, once the errant release was discovered. The lists are now no longer accessible. Bloomberg, however, obtained the logs when they were mistakenly made public and published the records.
The Justice Department declined to comment, and Trump's lawyers did not return a request for comment.
The logs detail the documents in the custody of a privilege review team, a group of federal agents separate from those involved in the criminal investigation of Trump's handling of sensitive government records. The privilege review team was responsible for sifting through the thousands of records taken from a storage room and Trump's office at Mar-a-Lago and separating those that may be potentially privileged.
Justice Department lawyers told Cannon in the public portion of the filing that the privilege review team identified 64 sets of materials, consisting of roughly 520 pages, that warranted further consideration and were separated into two groups, listed in the inventories that were inadvertently unsealed.
Twenty-one sets of materials in the first list are primarily government records, public documents and communications to or from third parties, "virtually none" of which appear to be privileged attorney-client communications or covered under the attorney work product doctrine, according to federal prosecutors.
Among the items detailed in the first log are a "Draft 2019 immigration initiative," a document titled "Executive Action to Curb Illegal Immigration and Move Toward Merit-Based Entry," and a printed email between the White House and National Security Council regarding the release of John Walker Lindh, a California man who was captured alongside Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and released from an Indiana prison in 2019.
The first set also includes numerous records related to requests for clemency, some of which contain initials such a "RN," "IR" and "JC," or full names like former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose sentence Trump commuted in February 2020.
Blagojevich was convicted of 18 counts related to corruption, including an attempt to sell Barack Obama's open Senate seat after he was elected president in 2008. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011, and a federal appeal court overturned some of his convictions in 2015.
There is also a 39-page document titled "The President's Calls" that featured the presidential seal in the upper left corner and contained handwritten names, numbers and notes that "primarily appear to be messages," according to the log. One of the notes states "Message from Rudy," though it may be a reference to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former lawyer.
The filter team also listed contents of a red folder marked "NARA letters & other copies" and the contents of a manila folder marked "NARA letters one top sheet + 3 signing sheets." NARA is the National Archives and Records Administration.
The second itemized log from the privilege review team contains 43 sets of materials that are "legal in nature" or potentially sensitive, according to the filing, and don't appear to be government or presidential records, or classified records. Still, Justice Department lawyers said "many of these materials do not appear to be privileged."
The first item listed is described as a medical letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, Trump's former personal physician, dated Sept. 13, 2016. A letter from Bornstein with the same date was released by Trump's presidential campaign during his first run for the White House and declared the then-candidate as in "excellent physical health."
Also included in the second itemized log are letters from the law firm "Morgan Lewis regarding taxes," invoices for legal fees, a "confidential settlement agreement" between the PGA Tour and Trump Golf signed by Trump, IRS forms, and a "retainer agreement" for Alina Habba, one of Trump's lawyers. The inventory also lists an "email accepting Trump's resignation from SAG," or the Screen Actors Guild, and a "nondisclosure agreement and contract agreement regarding Save America," his political action committee.
Federal prosecutors detailed in the unsealed portion of the 15-page filing the search procedure and protocols the privilege review team followed while executing the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8.
The privilege review team, the Justice Department lawyers said, has completed its review of the materials in its custody. The filing told the court what characteristics the team was looking for in setting aside documents that could be considered privileged.
"During the search, the Privilege Review Team agents took a broad view of potentially privileged information, to include any documents to, from, or even referencing an attorney (regardless of whether the document appeared to capture communications to or from an attorney for the purpose of seeking legal advice and regardless of who the attorney represented)," Justice Department lawyers explained in their filing. "The Privilege Review Team agent also treated any legal document as potentially privileged."
Nonetheless, Trump filed a lawsuit in federal district court after the FBI's search at Mar-a-Lago and requested the court appoint an outside legal expert to review the 11,000 documents seized by federal agents for any that may be subject to claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.
Cannon granted Trump's request for an independent arbiter, or special master, last month, and appointed Raymond Dearie, a longtime federal district court judge, to vet the records.
Trump has criticized the Justice Department for the search and, in a post to his social media platform Truth Social last month, accused federal investigators of "improperly" taking his "complete and highly confidential medical file and history, with all the bells and whistles," along with personal tax records and "lawyer/client/privileged information."
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