- Trump’s lawyers have claimed attorney-client or executive privilege over documents seized by the FBI.
- A judge agreed to appoint a special master who can review documents to check for privileged information.
- The special master said there has not been sufficient evidence of privileged information so far.
A judge appointed as the special master to review thousands of White House documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in August challenged the former president’s legal claim of privilege over certain records on Tuesday , according to The New York Times.
Trump and his lawyers have argued that the documents are protected by either attorney-client or executive privilege, thus blocking the Justice Department’s access to certain documents for its criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of sensitive government records.
But so far, Judge Raymond R. Drearie, the special master, said in a hearing that the batch of documents he reviewed lacked enough evidence to support the privilege claim, The Times reported.
“It’s a little confusing when I go through the log,” Dearie said, according to The Times. “What’s the expression, ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef.”
The judge is apparently referring to a slogan from the fast food chain Wendy’s – “Where’s the beef?” – which appeared for the first time in 1984.
Dreary’s doubts centered on a small batch of records that the DOJ already set aside from the larger trove of records seized from Trump’s resort, according to The Times
In one case, Drearie challenged how Trump’s lawyers could argue that a document was Trump’s personal property while also arguing that it is protected by executive privilege, which is reserved only for government records.
“Unless I’m wrong, and I’ve been wrong before, there’s definitely a discrepancy there,” Dearie said at the hearing.
The concern from Drearie is the latest roadblock in the documents scandal for Trump, who has hoped to undermine the DOJ’s investigation and downplay the seriousness of taking classified records, some of which may have related to national security intelligence.
In September, Drearie requested evidence proving FBI agents planted documents at Mar-a-Lago or that the former president declassified records containing highly sensitive information, as Trump claimed. Judge Aileen M. Cannon later overruled Dreary’s request for the information.
Trump’s lawyers also raised issues with finding a vendor to digitize thousands of documents for Drearie to review. They claimed in a lawsuit that they cannot find a vendor willing to do the job and that the deadlines for providing the documents were too rigid.
Judge Cannon extended the deadline to complete the special master’s review by December 16.