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Cannon rules Trump lawyers don’t have to clarify claims on Mar-a-Lago documents

President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen from the media van in the presidential motorcade in Palm Beach, Fla., March 24, 2018, en route to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Judge Aileen M. Cannon told Donald Trump’s lawyers Thursday that they did not need to comply with an order from special master Raymond J. Dearie and state in a filing whether they believe FBI agents lied about documents seized from the former president’s Florida residence.

Thursday's ruling was the first clash between Cannon, a Trump appointee who has generally shown the former president deference in litigation over the Mar-a-Lago investigation, and Dearie, a federal judge she appointed as an outside expert in the case, who appears to be far more skeptical of Trump.

At the request of Trump's lawyers, Cannon chose Dearie to review approximately 11,000 documents seized Aug. 8 from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club and residence and determine whether any should be shielded from investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege.


Dearie last week told the former president's legal team that they couldn't suggest in court filings that the government's description of the seized documents - including whether they were classified - was inaccurate without providing any evidence. He ordered them to submit to the court by Oct. 7 any specific inaccuracies they saw in the government's inventory list of seized items.

It would have been a key test of Trump's legal strategy, as his lawyers decided whether to back up Trump's controversial public claims that the FBI planted items at his residence and that he had declassified all the classified documents before leaving office - or whether they would take a more conciliatory approach.

But according to Cannon, who is still the ultimate authority in the portion of the case dealing with which of the unclassified documents federal investigators may use, such a decision is not required right now.

"There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant's Inventory, its descriptions, or its content," Cannon wrote in her order.


Cannon also addressed ongoing disputes over deadlines set by the Dearie as part of his review, siding with Trump's team and extending the special master review deadline to Dec. 16. She had originally said Dearie could have until around Thanksgiving to settle any disagreements the two parties had over privilege issues.

Dearie had suggested he could work on a more expedited schedule and told the parties they would need to finish their portions of the review by Oct. 21. Trump's team had pushed back against that deadline, saying it was too fast and that they couldn't find a vendor to scan the documents that was willing to work on that timeline.

“This modest enlargement is necessary to permit adequate time for the Special Master’s review and recommendations given the circumstances as they have evolved since entry of the Appointment Order,” Cannon wrote in her order.