Trump special main hearing: DOJ, Trump face court

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lawyers for the Justice Department and former President Donald Trump are in federal court here Thursday afternoon arguing over whether a judge should appoint a special master to review documents the FBI seized Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago and club last month.

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon reported over the weekend she was inclined to appoint the special master, but asked the government to present its case against appointing one in a brief before the hearing.

Reporters are present for the hearing, but under court rules they cannot send updates while it is in progress.

Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Documents: A Timeline

In a lightning response At Trump’s request Tuesday night, the Justice Department said a special master was not needed and the FBI’s unprecedented search of a former president’s home was justified. The filing alleged that Trump and his advisers repeatedly failed to turn over highly classified government documents, even after receiving a subpoena and promising that a “diligent search” had been conducted, leading to the August 8 raid which found over 100 additional classified items.

Trump’s team has accused the Justice Department of acting politically in its investigation into the former president’s possible mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House. Their legal deposits argue that the government seized documents to which he is not entitled and that a neutral outside expert could sift through the material and set aside anything that should be shielded from government scrutiny because of the privilege.

“Three weeks after an unprecedented, unnecessary, and legally unsupported raid on the home of a president – and possibly a candidate against the current chief executive in 2024,” Trump’s legal team wrote in a filing Wednesday night, “the government…has filed an extraordinary document with the court, suggesting that the DOJ, and the DOJ alone, should be tasked with assessing its wrongful pursuit to criminalize a former president’s possession of records personal and presidential in a secure environment.

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After hearing arguments Thursday afternoon, Cannon could issue a decision from the bench. It could also rule later, in writing.

The Department of Justice told Cannon its review by the “screening team” of potentially privileged documents has already been completed.

Chris Kise, the newest addition to Trump’s legal team and former Florida solicitor general, was formally added as the former president’s co-counsel in a filing Thursday morning and joined other attorneys in the courtroom before the hearing.

Kise has signed a multi-million dollar contract to join Trump’s team, according to people familiar with the hire, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive aspects of Trump’s court case.

People said Kise, who left the Foley and Lardner law firm to take the job with Trump, was assured that he would play a “lead” role in the case.

Josh Dawsey and Ann Marimow contributed to this report.

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