New DOJ filing exposes Trump’s secret objections — and asks special master to call his bluff
Donald Trump at the Elysee Palace. (Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com)

The Justice Department in a filing on Tuesday revealed the Trump legal team's objections that they tried to keep under wraps.

Federal Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master tasked with reviewing thousands of documents seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence, earlier this month challenged Trump's lawyers to assert whether they believe his public claim that the FBI may have "planted" evidence during the search and produce evidence of Trump's claim that he "declassified" secret national security documents before taking them home.

Trump's team apparently responded with objections to Dearie's plan for the special master review but they were not made public until the Justice Department responded to them in a filing on Tuesday.

"Team Trump is filing complaints under seal for some reason, but DOJ is discussing it not under seal, so we can largely infer what Trump is upset about," New York Times national security reporter Charlie Savage flagged on Twitter.

The filing revealed that Trump's lawyers objected to Dearie's request that they verify that the search inventory filed by the DOJ is accurate, essentially daring Trump's team to assert his dubious claim that the FBI may have "planted" evidence in official court documents. The DOJ affirmed that its inventory is complete and accurate and urged Dearie to require Trump's lawyers to state whether they believe the list of items seized from the property is accurate.

Trump's lawyers also objected to Dearie's request for them to explain whether they are claiming attorney-client privilege or executive privilege after Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump appointee that ordered the special master review, failed to ask for a distinction.

It's unclear exactly what Trump's third objection was.

"Team Trump doesn't want to brief something that DOJ says is fine briefing. They don't say what, but Dearie's directive had discussed a briefing schedule for any eventual Rule 44 motion by Trump for return of property seized in the search, so it's probably that," Savage reported.

Trump's lawyers previously declined to provide evidence of his claims that he "declassified" the documents, arguing that they may need to save the evidence for a defense in a future hearing and a possible prosecution.

"Trump's team objects to the Special Master's order requiring them to state whether particular documents are privileged or declassified and provide evidence in support of any claim that a document was declassified," tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "They want to have their cake and eat it too. They won't get that."

Mariotti also questioned why Trump's lawyers made the arguments under seal.

"That could be because their arguments are at odds with their public positions," Mariotti wrote.

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The DOJ filing also revealed that Trump's team had trouble finding a vendor to digitize the documents that were seized for the special master review.

Trump's team "informed us this morning that none of the five document-review vendors proposed by the government" were "willing to be engaged" by Trump. The DOJ asked Dearie for an extra day to secure a vendor themselves. The DOJ expects Trump to "pay the vendor's invoices promptly when rendered," the filing said.

"This is absolutely hilarious," tweeted conservative attorney George Conway.

Trump's legal team has been in flux since the FBI raid in August, as he struggled to find an elite lawyer to represent him — and as some of his attorneys may face legal scrutiny themselves. Trump raised eyebrows earlier this month after he used donor money from his super PAC to pay attorney Chris Kise, a former Florida solicitor general who once represented a member of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro's government, a $3 million advance. But CNN reported on Tuesday that Kise has been "sidelined from the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation less than a month after he was brought on to represent Trump in the matter." A Trump spokesman denied the report and Kise told The Washington Post that he will still be working on the case.

"The infighting in this team," tweeted New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, "after one lawyer faced a search warrant and another two have gotten attention from DOJ over their statements to the feds on the documents, continues."