Raymond Dearie—former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York who has been appointed to act as the special master and review documents seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in August—challenged Trump's lawyers during the first hearing in the case.
Dearie questioned Trump's lawyers for refusing to back up Trump's claim he declassified documents recovered from the residence.
He told them:
“My view of it is: you can’t have your cake and eat it."
Trump claimed the 11,000 documents the FBI recovered from Mar-a-Lago were rightfully in his possession, including about 100 with classified markings. But Dearie questioned the refusal on the part of Trump's lawyers to present proof showing this was the case.
Dearie was firm he would not allow Trump's "litigation strategy" to hamper his review or "to dictate the outcome of my recommendations." He also openly wondered what his role would be if the government says certain documents are classified and Trump’s side disagrees but doesn’t offer proof to support their claim.
”What am I looking for?....As far as I am concerned, that’s the end of it. What business is it of the court?”
Dearie was appointed to serve as the special master last week by Judge Aileen Cannon, who sits on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Dearie was appointed after Cannon rejected a Justice Department (DOJ) request to let federal prosecutors continue their review of classified documents.
Cannon ordered the special master review be completed by November 30. She stressed the importance of appointing "a neutral third party" to conduct the review "in an expedited and orderly fashion."
Dearie was the only candidate Trump's legal team and the DOJ could agree on. Trump had previously rejected all of the DOJ's picks and suggested the investigation is politically motivated.
That seemed to be the direction Trump's legal team were taking. James Trusty, one of Trump's attorneys, said Trump shouldn't have to mount a defense now when criminal charges have not yet been filed.
“It’s not about gamesmanship. It’s about not having seen the documents. ... We are not in a position, nor should we be in a position at this juncture, to fully disclose a substantive defense."
“We shouldn’t have to be in a position to have to disclose declarations and witness statements.”
It was Trusty's statements that prompted Dearie to suggest Trump's legal team was trying to “have your cake and eat it."
Many concurred with Dearie's assessment.
Complicating matters for Trump is the fact he is on the hook for all legal fees regarding Dearie's review.
In her ruling last week, Judge Cannon said Trump would have to pay the full cost of the special master, handing the DOJ a major concession.
The news prompted many commentators to openly mock Trump, who for decades has avoided or flat out refused to pay his debts.