What Kind Of Game Is Trump Playing With The Special Master?

STERLING, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Former U.S. President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club September 13, 2022 in Sterling, Virginia. Trump's legal team is currently negotiating with the Justice Departmen... STERLING, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Former U.S. President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club September 13, 2022 in Sterling, Virginia. Trump's legal team is currently negotiating with the Justice Department regarding the selection of a Special Master to review documents seized when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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President Trump appears to have doubled down on Friday in his bid to delay and muddle the work of the special master who he wanted appointed in the Mar-a-Lago records case.

It’s not entirely clear what Trump is doing, but in a Friday letter to the special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie for the Eastern District of New York, Trump continued to make bare assertions that certain records seized by the government should be off-limits to the investigation without explaining why.

Trump was already one day late on a deadline that Dearie set for Thursday for both the Justice Department and the former president to lay out what records were in dispute, and for each side to present to Dearie the legal and factual basis for their position so that he could render a decision.

Now, two days in a row, Trump has refused to explain his position to Dearie. The DOJ in a Thursday letter said that the two parties disagreed about whether nine out of an initial batch of 15 records were personal, and whether an overlapping four records were subject to executive privilege claims.

Trump disputed that in a short Thursday letter in which he claimed that his real deadline was Monday. Dearie then demanded that Trump file an explanation on Friday for his position.

The most significant change between what DOJ told Dearie about Trump’s position and what Trump is now saying appears to be that Trump no longer claims that executive privilege applies to two records which he earlier claimed were also personal records. That would have created an entirely new, hitherto unknown category of document: one both personal and official.

Ahead of yesterday’s deadline, the special master held a hearing Tuesday to discuss progress in the matter. At the hearing, Dearie instructed both parties to be clear about the disputes, back up their positions, and provide, as he put it, some “beef.” He also expressed skepticism that personal records could be covered by executive privilege.

The DOJ filing Thursday suggested that Trump had made a series of outlandish claims, including that at least two of the records were both personal and covered by executive privilege, which only extends to White House documents.

It was a typically Trumpian lack of division between self and state, but what accompanied it was Trump’s attorneys blowing Dearie’s deadline. They only filed a letter disputing the DOJ’s characterization, while saying that they would stick to a self-created deadline of Monday.

On Friday, Dearie issued an order saying that Trump was “untimely,” and demanding that he explain his position on the privilege dispute by close of business on Friday.

In the Friday letter, Trump also appears to assume that Dearie lacks the ability to set briefing schedules in the case that he is overseeing. Instead, Trump wrote that he would “confer with the Defendant for a briefing schedule on the substance of the categorization arguments.”

Trump also accused the DOJ of failing to check with him that the documents it identified were numbered correctly before filing the Thursday letter. Trump also suggests that his delay in filing was due to a faulty assumption that Dearie required a joint — and not separate — filing.

“And going forward, Plaintiff’s counsel will not assume that orders requiring submissions
‘from the parties’ means a jointly drafted document,” attorneys for Trump wrote.

This filing included Jim Trusty, who has argued for Trump in recent hearings, but also Chris Kise, the former Florida solicitor general who took a $3 million payment for his work with Trump.

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