Some seized information could possibly be shielded by attorney-client privilege

Former US President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022.

Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images

Some of the materials seized in the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s home Mar-a-Lago may be protected by attorney-client privilege, the Justice Department said Monday.

The “limited set” of potentially privileged information was identified by a team that is kept separate from the investigative squad that searched Trump’s resort home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 8.

The so-called Privilege Review Team “completed its review of those materials” and is following a process to “address potential privilege disputes, if any,” DOJ officials said in a court filing Monday morning.

Attorney-client privilege often refers to the legal doctrine that protects the confidentiality of communications between an attorney and their client. The court filing provided no details about the potentially privileged documents.

That filing in US District Court in southern Florida came one week after Trump sued to block the DOJ from further investigating any materials taken in the raid until a court-appointed “special master” is able to review them.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, gave notice Saturday of her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master” in the case. Cannon ordered the government to publicly respond to Trump by Tuesday. She also ordered the DOJ to submit a filing under seal that provides more details about the seized materials and the status of its review.

In response, top DOJ counterintelligence official Jay Bratt assured the judge that the government will comply with those orders.

Trump’s civil lawsuit is being overseen by a different judge than the one who approved the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. The affidavit for that search warrant — in which an FBI agent explained why the government had probable cause to believe the search would turn up evidence of illegality — was released Friday, albeit with heavy redactions.

The National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago in January. The next month, NARA sent a referral to the DOJ that the records contained “highly classified documents intermingled with other records,” according to the affidavit. By law, presidential records must be turned over to the National Archives when a president departs office.

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The FBI launched a criminal investigation and found that the 15 boxes included 184 specific documents marked classified, 67 of which were marked “confidential,” 92 marked “secret” and 25 marked “top secret,” according to the affidavit.

The search warrant was revealed days after the FBI entered Mar-a-Lago in August. It indicated that FBI agents were looking for materials showing violations of laws against obstruction of justice and the removal of official records, as well as the US Espionage Act.

The FBI took at least 20 boxes of items in the August raid, including numerous sets of highly classified documents, according to a property receipt that was also made public by the DOJ.

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