(The Hill) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has completed an initial review of potentially privileged materials seized at Mar-a-Lago, the agency informed the court Monday, as former President Donald Trump seeks to block the department from examining evidence collected at his home.
The acknowledgment that the government has already reviewed and set aside items that may be covered by attorney-client privilege could undermine an effort from Trump to stall the investigation.
The notice comes as Trump has sought to obtain a so-called special master — a third party who would review the materials collected to screen for personal property or any privileged material that may have been swept up in the search.
But the Justice Department began that work in the two weeks before Trump brought his suit, using a filter team of employees not assigned to the case to review the evidence collected during the search.
That team “identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information,” U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez wrote in a filing Monday.
A functioning filter team could make it harder for Trump to argue a special master is necessary, and a judge in the case has already asked the former president’s legal team to expand on the legal reasoning in its initial filing requesting the court’s intervention.
The filing comes after the Justice Department complied with a court order in a separate case Friday by releasing the affidavit used to seek the warrant to search Trump’s Florida home, revealing that documents recovered from an initial retrieval in January included 184 classified documents, including those dealing with human intelligence sources.
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Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines alerted lawmakers over the weekend that the intelligence community would conduct its own assessment of the potential fallout of the mishandling of intelligence from the January batch of documents.