WASHINGTON: The "classified documents" seized from former US President Donald Trump's Florida residence by the FBI are now in the process of a scrutiny called "damage assessment" for possible national security risks, according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
She said the documents seized were being assessed for damage they can cause, if unsealed and becoming public. In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, Haines said her office will do a damage assessment of the documents.
"The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are working together to facilitate a classification review of relevant materials, including those recovered during the search," Haines wrote in the letter obtained by Politico. The intelligence community is looking into potential national security risks from documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
FBI agents searched Trump's property earlier this month seizing 11 sets of classified documents, including some that were marked as "top secret" and may have concerned nuclear weapons.
In a joint statement, Maloney and Schiff said they were pleased about the inquiry. "The DOJ affidavit, partially unsealed yesterday, affirms our grave concern that among the documents stored at Mar-a-Lago were those that could endanger human sources. It is critical that the IC move swiftly to assess and, if necessary, to mitigate the damage done - a process that should proceed in parallel with the DOJ's criminal investigation," Maloney and Schiff were quoted by the Business Insider as saying.
Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago country club cum residence for just $8 million in 1985 and it has been his getaway in winters.
On Friday, the Justice Department released a redacted version of the affidavit to search the estate.
Since the affidavit was heavily redacted with large portions inked out, Trump virtually did a victory lap saying: "There is nothing Nuclear in it", but redacted portions did reveal markings as classified and ORCON, which means that those set of documents cannot be declassified by a President unless the intelligence agencies that produced the report agreed to do so.
Meanwhile, Trump had a bit of good news coming his way, when a Florida federal judge acceded to the request of his legal team to appoint a special master to review the documents seized from his house. The judge announced a "preliminary intent to appoint a special master" to review seized Trump records. Special Master denotes a 3rd party independent of either said -- the accused and the accuser.
US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon said in a Saturday order that she was providing "notice" of the decision to the parties involved, noting that the decision was made due to the "exceptional circumstances presented". Lawyers for the former President filed a motion requesting the appointment of a special master to assess the records, arguing that the raid of his golf club and winter residence was a "shockingly aggressive move".
"Pursuant to Rule 53(b) (1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court's inherent authority, and without prejudice to the parties' objections, the court hereby provides notice of its preliminary intent to appoint a special master in this case," Cannon wrote in a filing.
Trump's lawyers wrote in their Monday filing: "Law enforcement is a shield that protects America. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes. Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid."
Appearing early Saturday morning on MSNBC, former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne claimed that the latest legal filing by Trump's lawyers over the Mar-a-Lago search three weeks ago is a sign of desperation and that it is evidence that they have no idea how to deal with their client's worsening legal woes.