Former President Trump’s legal team on Friday warned the judicial “special master” reviewing the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago against contacting National Archives officials about their procedures, saying it could inject “political bias” into the case.
Veteran Brooklyn federal Judge Raymond Dearie, appointed by the court to sift through the boxes of documents taken from Mr. Trump’s Florida home in an FBI operation in August, announced earlier this week that he wants to contact officials at the National Archives and Records Administration to learn how they categorize materials under the Presidential Records Act.
Under the 1978 law, presidents must turn over classified documents and other materials to the National Archives when they leave office. It also sets the rules for how to handle such records.
Mr. Trump may have violated the law when he took scores of documents, including some reportedly marked “classified” and “top secret” to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his term. He has not been publicly charged with a crime.
Lawyers for the former president say Judge Dearie’s plan runs afoul of established legal precedents barring judges from conducting independent factual research outside the courtroom.
In a letter to the judge, Mr. Trump’s legal team said “the judicial system relies upon vigorous advocacy amongst the parties, rather than inquisitorial research by the presiding judicial officer.”
The lawyers also said they have “deep concerns” about the political bias of National Archives officials, adding their comments could taint how Judge Dearie views the case.
Instead, Mr. Trump’s legal team suggested that a National Archives official testify under oath during a Dec. 1, status conference hearing. That would allow both sides to question the official.
“Plaintiff’s proposed procedure would appropriately balance the special master’s need for information with the parties’ interest in testing the reliability and accuracy of that information,” they wrote.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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