Legal Experts Rip Trump's Resistance to Special Master Dearie's Request

Donald Trump's lawyers are being chided by legal observers for pushing back against a judge's directive that they explain the former president's claim that he declassified government documents seized by law enforcement.

Trump's legal team in a court filing Monday argued they shouldn't be expected to disclose additional details around the purported declassification of documents hauled away by FBI agents last month from Trump's Florida home in Mar-a-Lago. The filing responds to a framework laid out by Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master tasked with sifting through 11,000 records retrieved from Trump. Legal commentators suggested the filing casts doubt on whether the documents were declassified.

"In Judge Dearie's proposed plan, he wants Trump team to put up or shut up on 'information regarding declassification,'" Katie Barlow, an attorney who hosts In The Courts on Fox affiliate WTTG in Washington, D.C., said in a tweet. "Trump continues to say he declassified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. This would require him to say so on the record under penalty of perjury."

Donald Trump at Rally
Ex-President Donald Trump speaks on Saturday at a Save America Rally in Youngstown, Ohio. Trump's lawyers resisted Raymond Dearie's request for an explanation of Trump's claim that he declassified the documents seized by the FBI last month at his Mar-a-Lago home. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Following the court-approved search of his home in August, Trump has claimed he "declassified" any sensitive documents carted away by federal law enforcement, a claim questioned by national security experts. Despite Trump's declassification stance, his lawyers have not backed them up in court filings.

Judge Aileen Cannon last week appointed Dearie as special master after Trump's lawyers successfully argued that an independent arbiter was needed to set aside documents subject to attorney-client or executive privilege seized in the search.

Dearie, a senior judge for the Eastern District of New York who was suggested for the position by Trump's team, asked both sides to bring up any issues ahead of an initial meeting scheduled for Tuesday in the Brooklyn Federal Court Building.

In their filing, Trump's lawyers said Dearie's initial plan to review the documents by November 30 required them to "disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government." Lawyers for Trump argued that disclosure should instead come in a motion to have the property returned.

"Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court's order," Trump's lawyers said in the filing.

Ryan Goodman, former law professor and Pentagon special counsel, said in a tweet that the filing was "not a good look for Trump's side."

"Trump's team is resisting," he said. "Smells like they want to avoid lying to court. Won't make assertion. Fear of 18 USC 1001?"

Goodman's tweet referenced a federal statute makes it illegal to make false statements to the government, punishable by fines and up to five years' imprisonment.

Newsweek has reached out to James Trusty, a member of Trump's legal team, for comment.