Donald Trump’s legal team is objecting to multiple aspects of the review process proposed by “Special Master” Judge Raymond Dearie. Initially, Trump’s team did something decidedly odd—it filed its objections under seal, hiding away exactly what it found wanting in Dearie’s plan. Only the Department of Justice followed up by filing their response to Dearie’s plan not under seal, and in it, they discussed multiple aspects of Trump’s objections, giving some visibility into just what Trump was after. This angered Trump’s team enough to generate another round of objections, and it appears the original set of objections is now visible. Whew.
So, just what did Trump want? On legal filings still made on classic ambulance chaser letterhead (“Hands-on counsel, gloves-off litigation”), the biggest goal is what Trump always wants: delay. To get this delay, Trump’s legal eagles are focusing on two areas. One involves a claim that Judge Dearie is exceeding the authority granted him by District Judge Aileen Cannon. The second is simply that there’s too much material to get through in the time Dearie has allocated.
That second claim comes attached to a number: 200,000. That’s how many pages that Trump’s team is now saying were in the 11,000 documents removed from Mar-a-Lago. So many pages that Trump’s team is claiming they can’t even get vendors to scan it all on Dearie’s schedule. Only that number is, at best, incorrect, and more likely just a flat-out lie.
The “so many pages we can’t even get vendors to give us a timeline” claim is part of that last document sent to Judge Dearie on Sept. 28. Here’s what it actually says about that 200,000 number:
The problem is compounded by the fact that when Plaintiff’s counsel referred to either 11,000 pages or even 11,000 documents during the status conference (we are still awaiting the transcript), the Government chose not to interject with an accurate number. In conversations between Plaintiff’s counsel and the Government regarding a data vendor, the Government mentioned that the 11,000 documents contain closer to 200,000 pages.
This is a claim that Trump’s legal team says came up in a literally off-the-record conversation between some member of their team and some member of the government. It may have been an off-hand remark. It may have been misheard. It may simply have never happened.
But it’s not accurate.
It’s not accurate, because this is the Department of Justice’s revised inventory and affidavit concerning the documents removed from Mar-a-Lago. It details the contents of 33 boxes, and those contents are nowhere close to 200,000 pages.
There are 33 legal boxes. In theory, those boxes can hold 4,500 pages each, but that’s essentially clean new paper carefully packed. In those conditions, the 33 boxes would hold close to 150,000 pages. Only these boxes not only contain clean new paper, or even simply documents. They also contain empty folders, newspaper clippings, magazines, photographs, books, and even “articles of clothing.” Even then, many of them are a long way from full.
Here’s the guaranteed accurate inventory of the first three boxes.
The first box holds just three documents, the third has just two. The second box, while it contains more documents, also holds 71 empty folders, some photographs, and press clippings. Down the line, one box holds only a single document. Another has 5 articles of clothing and 235 photographs.
The number of pages Trump’s team is using as the basis of their delay is not going to be accurate by an order of magnitude. The 200,000 number may be grabbing headlines, but the real news here is that Trump is doing what he always does—throwing everything at the wall in hopes that something will stick.
Delay isn’t the only purpose of Trump’s latest filings. They also take this opportunity to once again threaten Judge Dearie by claiming he’s not doing as Judge Aileen Cannon instructed. Back on Sept. 4, Judge Cannon threw out law, facts, and logic to grant Donald Trump the biggest request in his complaint about a Department of Justice search for illegally-held documents at Mar-a-Lago: a “special master” to review claims of privilege. Then Cannon sided with Trump again, giving him the specific special master he wanted in Judge Dearie.
Trump seemed to have an impression that Dearie, who had been part of the FISA court which authorized warrants early in the investigation into Trump’s campaign’s dealings with Russia, was somehow resentful over that process, and would give him the same bespoke treatment that he received from Cannon.
However, even before the first official meeting with Dearie, it was clear that Trump didn’t get the rubber stamp he ordered. Dearie insisted on doing things by the book and according to the law. He showed little tolerance for the slipshod approach of Trump’s legal team, or for nonsense like Trump’s claims that clearly classified documents were no longer classified, without providing any evidence that they had been declassified. Or for claims of planted evidence.
In every filing they’ve made, Trump’s team has complained that Dearie isn’t doing as Cannon intended, and they make that claim again in the formerly sealed document. Here’s their biggest complaint:
To help find facts, the appointing order authorized a declaration or affidavit by a
Government official regarding the accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory as to whether it represents a full and accurate accounting of the property seized from Mara-Lago. The Appointing Order contemplated no corresponding declaration or affidavit by Plaintiff, and because the Special Master’s case management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the District Court on this issue, Plaintiff must
In other words: “Judge Cannon says they have to testify that their claims are accurate as to what’s in the boxes, but she never said we couldn’t lie about it!”
Now we see how Judge Dearie responds to all this. Grab some popcorn.
Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.