Washington — A “limited set” of material taken by the FBI in its search of former President Donald Trump’s South Florida residence may contain information covered by attorney-client privilege, the Justice Department revealed in a court filing Monday.
Federal prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in the filing that a so-called Privilege Review Team, which is examining some of the documents seized from the former president to identify those that may contain privileged information, found “a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information.” The team has completed a review of the materials, the filing said.
The team is also in the process of following procedures laid out in an affidavit detailing the justification for the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago this month to “address potential privilege disputes, if any,” wrote Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. Attorney in Miami, and Jay Bratt, the top counterintelligence official at the Justice Department.
The Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are also undertaking a classification review of materials recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago, they said.
“As the Director of National Intelligence advised Congress, ODNI is also leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials,” Gonzalez and Bratt told the court.
A federal magistrate judge on Friday unsealed a redacted version of the 38-page affidavit used to justify the search warrant executed by the FBI at the former president’s Florida home. The FBI said the National Archives and Records Administration determined that 15 boxes it retrieved from the property in January contained “highly classified documents intermingled with other records.”
Within the 15 boxes provided to the National Archives, 184 documents had classification markings, including 67 marked “confidential,” 92 marked as “secret,” and 25 marked as “top secret,” the FBI said in its affidavit. Agents who conducted a preliminary review of the boxes in mid-May also found some of the documents were marked “HCS,” or HUMINT Control System, which the affidavit said is “designed to protect intelligence information derived from clandestine human sources.”
Trump has criticized the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, claiming without evidence it is a politically motivated attack by the Justice Department ahead of a potential 2024 campaign for president.
Trump has also claimed some of the documents taken by the FBI are covered by attorney-client privilege and asked Cannon last week to appoint a “special master” to review the records seized from Mar-a-Lago. In a preliminary order issued Saturday, Cannon said it is her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master” in response to Trump’s request, though her decision is not yet final.
She also set a Tuesday deadline for the Justice Department to provide a more detailed description of the property seized by the FBI from Trump’s Palm Beach residence.