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Special Master Says Trump Should Give Names of Staffers Who Review Mar-a-Lago Docs to Him, Not the Government

Donald Trump appeared at a Republican campaign event on June 25, 2022 in Mendon, Illinois. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images.)

Donald Trump appeared at a Republican campaign event on June 25, 2022 in Mendon, Illinois.

Former President Donald Trump must disclose to a special master — but not to the U.S. Department of Justice — the names of his lawyers and staffers who will obtain access to the material seized during an FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, with Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie wrote in a protective order issued Friday.

By so ruling, Dearie sided with Trump’s attorneys over a minor dispute on the matter.

DOJ lawyers wanted Trump’s legal team to disclose “the names and job titles” of any lawyers, paralegals, and staff members who would be part of the team that reviewed the seized materials.  The DOJ wanted the court to resolve any of its objections to the names Trump’s team placed on the list before any review of the seized materials could take place.

The government made the request in a proposed protective order that largely matched one later proposed by Trump’s team.  The difference was the request for DOJ notification. Trump’s lawyers noted in a competing filing that the DOJ “has not disclosed and does not plan to disclose the names of all persons on their side, and the Plaintiff therefore should not be treated any differently.”

“Moreover, the Special Master can maintain the list of names so that in the event there are any compliance issues, there will exist a written record of the requisite acknowledgements,” according to a one-paragraph notice that pointed out the differences between the documents filed Friday and signed by Christopher M. Kise, a Trump attorney from Tallahassee, Florida.

The competing filings proffered only slightly different versions of a protective order — a secrecy agreement that lays out the parameters of confidentiality that attach to the seized material and explains the punishments for noncompliance.

Dearie issued his seven-paragraph order hours after Kise’s filing, ordering the Mar-a-Lago materials to be disclosed to himself and his staff as well Trump’s lawyers and staff “who are working on this case under the direction of Plaintiff’s Counsel and to whom it is necessary that the Seized Materials be disclosed for purposes of executing this Court’s order.” He also authorized disclosure to “vendors approved by the Special Master or this Court for purposes of scanning, hosting, reviewing or otherwise processing electronic copies of Seized Materials.”

Dearie said the information needs to be given to him “before Seized Materials are shown to such persons” and that everyone must sign an acknowledgement of the rules laid out in the protective order that he included as an exhibit.

Additionally, Dearie ordered everyone to use the materials “exclusively in connection with the above-captioned case and not for any other purpose.” Any materials cited in forthcoming filings must be filed under seal or submitted to the special master or to U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is overseeing the matter, privately. Everyone must also secure the materials “in a manner reasonably intended to preserve and maintain the confidentiality,” including through password-protected and walled-off network folders if stored electronically on non-government computers.

Also under the order, anyone who discloses the materials to unauthorized people — “inadvertently or otherwise” — must notify the DOJ, try to retrieve the material, notify unauthorized viewers of the protective order and request they signed the acknowledgment form.

“Violations of this Judicial Protective Order shall be punishable by contempt of court or any other legally available sanction that the Court deems appropriate,” Dearie ordered. “All parties to whom Seized Materials are disclosed in accordance with this Judicial Protective Order consent and submit to this Court’s jurisdiction for purposes of enforcing this order.”

The order does not cover seized materials marked classified, which are the subject of an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals order that says the DOJ can resume reviewing the material for criminal investigative purposes.  The DOJ, according to the circuit court, doesn’t have to give any of the material to Dearie or to Trump’s counsel until the appellate court rules on the DOJ’s full appeal of Cannon’s order.

DOJ lawyers said they’ll propose a separate protective order concerning classified documents should the government ultimately need to provide that material to Trump’s lawyers.

Appointed by Cannon on Sept. 15, Dearie was one of two nominations for special master put forth by Trump’s team. He held his first case conference Tuesday at the Brooklyn federal courthouse where his courtroom was located before his retirement last month.

On Thursday, he gave Trump’s lawyers until Sept. 30 to identify any specific items the DOJ claims were seized from Mar-a-Lago that Trump believes weren’t actually taken from his palatial Palm Beach estate.

Dearie also gave the DOJ no later than Monday to tell him if the inventory list is complete and accurate.

Trump’s attorneys have contested whether some of the seized materials are actually classified as the DOJ as asserted.

Read Dearie’s full protective order below.

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.