Special Master Says Trump Can't Have His Cake 'And Eat It Too'

The special master appointed to review the documents seized from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home last month reportedly told the former president's team that they cannot "have your cake and eat it too" during a hearing Tuesday in his courtroom.

The special master, U.S. Judge Raymond Dearie, made the comment after Trump's lawyers resisted his efforts to have them back up the former president's claims that the sensitive documents found in his home had been declassified, according to Politico reporter Josh Gerstein, who has been posting updates on the hearing via Twitter.

FBI agents conducted a search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home on August 8 and seized more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 that had classification markings. Trump and his allies have sharply condemned the raid and seizure, while the former president has denied any wrongdoing in regard to the documents.

The appointment of the special master was set in motion by a request from Trump's team, and was ultimately approved by Judge Aileen Cannon. One legal analyst suggested Monday that Trump may have "miscalculated" in asking for Dearie from a pool of recommendations to be the special master.

Special Master Pushes Back Against Trump Team
Federal prosecutors leave Brooklyn Federal Courthouse on September 20, 2022, in New York City. The special master appointed to review the documents seized from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home last month reportedly told the former president's team that they cannot "have your cake and eat it too" during a hearing Tuesday in his courtroom. Alex Kent/Getty Images

Trump has attempted to justify having the classified documents in his possession by saying that what he took had been declassified. But Mick Mulvaney, who was Trump's acting chief of staff from January 2019 to March 2020, told Newsmax last month that while a president has broad authority to declassify documents, "there's a formal structure to doing that."

He also said that there wasn't a standing order to declassify documents when he was chief of staff, but noted that one could have been implemented later.

Even if the former president's team could prove that the documents at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified, the three potential violations of federal law, including part of the Espionage Act, listed on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant don't require the documents to be classified, former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade said on MSNBC's The Katie Phang Show last month.

While Trump has maintained his declassification explanation, his legal team has not made the same argument in legal filings.

In a court filing on Monday ahead of Tuesday's hearing, Trump's lawyers argued that they should not be expected to share further details about the purported declassification.

The lawyers wrote in the filing that Dearie's initial plan to review the documents by November 30 would result in them having 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."

Instead, such disclosure should come in a motion to have the property returned, they argued.

Still, news reports indicate that Dearie repeatedly pushed the issue during the hearing in the Brooklyn Federal Court Building on Tuesday.

Newsweek reached out to a Trump lawyer for comment.