Judge gives Trump more time to challenge Mar-a-Lago documents

WASHINGTON – For President Donald Trump, who has suggested FBI agents might have planted evidence during the search at Mar-a-Lago, doesn't have to detail his complaints in court immediately and the special master will have two weeks longer to review the documents under a federal judge's order Thursday.

Trump has suggested on social media that FBI agents may have "planted" evidence during the search on Aug. 8 that recovered 11,000 documents. The special master reviewing the records, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, gave him until Friday for his lawyers to detail his concerns.

But U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed Dearie, ruled Tuesday that Trump doesn't have to explain his challenges yet. She also extended the deadline for Dearie to complete his review to Dec. 16. He had set a goal to finish by Nov. 30.

Cannon ruled that her order "imposed no additional requirements" on Trump regarding the inventory of what was seized.

Dearie had ordered Trump on Sept. 23 to detail any challenges to the FBI’s official inventory of what was seized during the search. Dearie wrote it would be Trump’s “final opportunity to raise any factual dispute” about the accuracy of the government’s inventory.

Trump questioned on social media two days after the search why FBI agents wouldn't let his lawyers or staffers watch the search.

"The FBI and others from the Federal Government would not let anyone, including my lawyers, be anywhere near the areas that were rummaged and otherwise looked at during the raid on Mar-a-Lago," Trump wrote. "Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, 'planting.' Why did they STRONGLY insist on having nobody watching them, everybody out?"

But Trump's lawyers haven't raised that allegation in court.

Dearie invited Trump to detail any items that “were not seized from the premises,” any incorrect description of the contents or location of an item seized, and items seized but not listed in the inventory.

But James Trusty, one of Trump's lawyers, objected in a letter Sunday and argued Dearie's request exceeded his authority. Trusty said Cannon's order appointing Dearie asked only for a declaration from the Justice Department that the inventory was correct, not one from Trump.

Government lawyers said in a letter Tuesday that Trump's verification of the inventory is required before Dearie carries out his review.

"The Special Master needs to know that he is reviewing all of the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022 – and no additional materials – before he categorizes the seized documents and adjudicates privilege claims," wrote Julie Edelstein, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterintelligence section.

The FBI inventory listed about 11,000 documents seized, including about 100 classified documents. FBI agents conducted the search under a court-approved warrant for evidence of mishandling national defense documents under the Espionage Act or obstruction of justice.

Dearie is reviewing the documents for personal items or documents that could be shielded from the investigation because they fall under attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

Under a ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department can continue its criminal investigation of the classified documents while Dearie does his review.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump gets longer to challenge Mar-a-Lago records, judge says