Special master slammed Trump's biggest defense for his Mar-a-Lago stash: columnist
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On Tuesday, writing for Vanity Fair, columnist Bess Levin outlined how the first hearing held by special master Raymond Dearie in the review of highly classified documents the FBI seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club was a disaster for the former president.

Specifically, Levin wrote, Dearie — a widely-respected senior federal judge from Brooklyn — effectively eliminated one of the most prominent arguments Trump has been making in public: that he used his presidential authorities to secretly declassify the documents himself.

"The problem with that defense is that (1) more than a dozen ex–White House staffers told CNN that it’s not true and (2) when it comes to the laws Trump may have broken, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the documents were declassified or not," wrote Levin. "But just for yuks, let’s say it’s true that Trump declassified much of what the FBI agents uncovered at Mar-a-Lago and that having done so could serve as his get-out-of-jail-free card. If that were the case, the ex-president and his legal team would have no problem telling the special master assigned to the case exactly which documents it applied to, right? Apparently, not so much. Possibly because — and we know this might come as a shock given that it’s about famously honest person Donald Trump — it’s a total lie."

Not only did Trump's attorneys refuse to bring up that argument in court, but — according to CNN's Ana Cabrera — Dearie himself preemptively brought it up, to demand the former president's legal team give him a straight answer on whether or not they consider the documents classified.

“If the government gives me prima facia evidence that they are classified documents, and you don’t advance any claim of declassification, I’m left with a prima facia case of classified documents, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie told Trump's attorneys.

Dearie was named special master after a Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, put the entire investigation on hold pending such a review. According to Axios, Trump's legal team specifically fought for Dearie to be appointed because he worked on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court — and they assumed that because the FISA court oversaw the warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page, which was blasted as supposedly corrupt by Fox News for years, Dearie would be inclined to see things Trump's way.