A Florida federal judge Thursday didn't immediately rule on a request from former President Donald Trump for a "special master" to review documents, which were seized from Trump's home last month by the FBI, for executive privilege.
After a 1 p.m. ET hearing, Judge Aileen M. Cannon said she will issue a written ruling on Trump's request, which is opposed by the Department of Justice, "in due course."
The hearing is the latest chapter in the battle over a closely watched Justice Department investigation into whether Trump illegally possessed classified national security materials at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The FBI raided Trump's property as part of the investigation early last month.
Trump lawyer Jim Trusty during the hearing slammed the DOJ for allegedly grasping at anything for which to prosecute Trump. He said the FBI could have "taken an overdue library book" and it would have "suddenly turned into a criminal investigation." He went on to note broader concern for the institution of the presidency itself after the unprecedented raid.
DOJ attorney Jay Bratt, meanwhile, argued that Trump no longer has the same legal privileges to classified documents as when he was in office.
"He is no longer the president, and because he is not … he was unlawfully in possession of them," Bratt said of the documents the department took from Trump's home.
Justice Department lawyers also argued that a special master is simply not necessary and said it would delay the investigation into Trump.
Canon, meanwhile, seemed skeptical of the government's arguments at times.
"What is the harm of appointing a special master," the judge said during the hearing. "What is your articulation of harm other than the general concern that it would delay a criminal investigation?"
She also floated the idea of letting the director of national intelligence review of the documents continue while halting the criminal investigation for a time and letting a special master review the materials.
Trump's team and the DOJ also disagreed during the hearing about the gravity of national security documents being stored at Mar-a-Lago.
"We need to take a deep breath. These are presidential records in the hands of the 45th president at a place which was used frequently for work during his presidency," Trump attorney Christopher Kise said.
DOJ prosecutor Julie Edelstein, meanwhile, said, "Some of those records included the most highly classified records in the U.S. There was no place at that property [Mar-a-Lago] that was authorized for those records."
Trump's lawyers also took a moment to address a photo included in a government brief Wednesday of several folders of classified documents strewn on a floor. Trusty said it was "perfectly staged" and a "press release within their motion."
Cannon in an order last Saturday announced her "preliminary intent" to appoint a special master. But she allowed for both sides to submit briefs making their case this week and set Thursday's hearing for debate on the matter.
It's unlikely that a special master would begin sorting through the documents immediately if Cannon does decide to appoint one. In briefs this week, lawyers for the Justice Department and Trump's team discussed submitting a joint list of proposed candidates for a special master potentially next week. They also said such a person should "possess a Top Secret/SCI security clearance."
The government initiated the raid on Trump's estate earlier this month in response to what it believed to be a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — gathering, transmitting or losing defense information; 18 USC 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation; and 18 USC 1519 — destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Fox News' David Spunt, Brooke Singman, Kelly Laco and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.