The special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case Thursday curtly ordered former President Trump to put up or shut up about his unfounded claim that the FBI might have planted incriminating evidence against him.
Judge Raymond Dearie ordered Trump to file affidavits saying if he claims any of the documents included in the government’s case were “not seized from (Mar-a-Lago) on Aug. 8.”
Dearie also ordered Trump to explain why each one of the more than 10,000 seized documents should be returned to him, a daunting task that will likely put the former president on the legal hot seat.
In what appears to be a fresh blow to Trump’s legal fight, Dearie also set a series of strict deadlines for categorizing the documents, a process that could also force Trump to make uncomfortable admissions that could hurt him in a potential criminal case.
Trump’s team itself asked for the appointment of a special master to comb through the documents seized in the court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago.
Trump may have hoped to stall the case or win the support of a sympathetic judge who might put roadblocks in the government’s investigation of the mishandling of top secret documents.
But Dearie’s order suggests Trump may have made a serious legal miscalculation.
If Trump’s team winds up agreeing that most of the documents are government property, he could effectively be admitting his guilt in stashing them at Mar-a-Lago.
He may also have scant luck convincing Dearie that any of the documents could possibly be covered by executive privilege, since the order asks Trump to give reasons why they should not be “review(ed) within the executive branch.”
Some legal eagles are suggesting Trump may simply ask Judge Aileen Cannon to pull the plug on the special master process altogether.
“Trump’s team needs to find an exit ramp out of the Special Master proceeding they asked for,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted.
Dearie will no longer be overseeing the status of some 100 classified documents found in the search.
That’s because a three-judge panel of federal judges struck down Cannon’s order allowing the special master to oversee those top-secret documents. They also gave prosecutors the green light to continue investigating.