The special gentleman overseeing the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents has ordered former President Donald Trump’s attorney to support out-of-court assertions that the FBI may have planted evidence in the drug during their search last month.
Judge Raymond Deere, a court-appointed special educator, said in a filing Thursday that the Trump team needs to file an oath saying if they believe the Department of Justice included any items in their “stockpile” of Mar-a-Lago material that did not. It is actually seized during inspection.
The declaration must include “a list of any specific items included in the detailed property inventory that the plaintiff asserts were not confiscated from the building on August 8, 2022,” Derry wrote in the order.
This has emerged as an issue in the case because Trump himself, some of his attorneys, and several of his outside Republican allies have publicly claimed that the FBI planted evidence in Mar-a-Lago during the August 8 search.
However, they provided no evidence to support these accusations.
Thursday’s new order from Derry came two days after he held his first in-person hearing with Trump’s attorneys and federal prosecutors, and outlines his plan for how to proceed with the special major review.
On Wednesday night, Trump suggested that the FBI planted evidence during the search. “Did they drop anything in those piles” of material from Mar-a-Lago, Shawn Hannity of Fox News asked, “or did they do it later?”
When Hannity asked him if there was a video of it, Trump said, “No, I don’t think so.”
The judge set a September 30 deadline for Trump’s lawyers to make that announcement after the oath. He also asked the Ministry of Justice to submit statements confirming the basic facts related to the inspection.
The FBI had previously declined to comment on allegations of wrongdoing during its inspection. When asked by a reporter last month about the allegation that federal agents planted evidence, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “I’m sure you can appreciate that this isn’t something I can talk about, so I’ll refer you to the[Justice]Department.”
Derry opened the door on Thursday’s order for a hearing where “witnesses with knowledge of the relevant facts” can be called to testify about the Mar-a-Lago search and the materials seized.
If this happens, it could become a moment of dispensation for Trump, who has made a wide range of statements about alleged government wrongdoing out of court, but has been more conservative in court, where it would be an offense to knowingly lie.
The Justice Department is also required to provide Trump’s lawyers with “copies of all seized material” – except for those marked as classified – by Monday. This is necessary so that the Trump side can know exactly what was taken from Mar-a-Lago and determine which material they believe should be protected under attorney, client, or executive privilege.
The deadline for Trump’s team to finish reviewing all documents for potential franchise appointments is October 14, though they will be required to send in “graded” batches of their assignments along the way. Derry ordered both sides to finish their reviews and send him their final designations by October 21.
The judge also noted that there may be some documents that are covered by executive privilege but that they can still be reviewed by the Department of Justice, which is part of the executive branch. That would be a more accurate view than what the Trump team offered — essentially that federal prosecutors should not be allowed to see or use these privileged documents as part of an investigation.
Derry also raised the possibility of returning some of the proceedings to Judge Bruce Reinhart, who agreed to a search warrant after finding probable cause for multiple crimes at Mar-a-Lago. This judge has since become the target of online death threats and stinging criticism from Trump supporters, and Trump has publicly pushed several false allegations about him.
Derry has also appointed a retired federal judge from the Eastern District of New York to assist him in the review and will also rely on staff from that district to work on reviewing the materials.
Derry said the judge, James Orenstein, “has experience managing complex cases, review of liens, safeguards proceedings” and other related topics, and that he currently has a top-secret security clearance.
The biographical page at the law firm where Orenstein previously worked says he served “on the prosecution team in the Oklahoma City bombing trials.” Earlier in his career, Attorney General Merrick Garland played a leading role in the Oklahoma City investigation.
Derry said he would not seek any additional compensation to work as a private master because he is currently working on US government payroll as a federal judge. But he suggested Orenstein be paid $500 an hour, which Trump would cover, based on an earlier court ruling in the case.