Mar-a-Lago documents seized by the FBI
Source: Department of Justice
A federal judge on Monday approved the appointment of a special master to review records the FBI seized in a raid on former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence last month, a move requested by his attorneys.
Judge Aileen Cannon simultaneously barred the Justice Department from reviewing or using the seized materials for investigative purposes pending the completion of the Master’s special review of the documents or pending further court orders.
This independent third party will “search the property seized for personal effects and documents and potentially privileged material entitled to attorney and/or executive privilege,” Cannon wrote in her order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Cannon said her order will not impede an ongoing review of classified documents found at Trump’s home and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s assessment of possible harm to US intelligence.
The DOJ is conducting a criminal investigation into the removal of government records from the White House at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach when he left office in January 2021. By law, such records should have been turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of Trump’s term.
The Trump-appointed judge nodded in her ruling to the fact that the Aug. 8 raid in Mar-a-Lago marked the first time law enforcement had searched a former president’s home as part of a criminal probe that person.
As Trump’s lawyers argued at a court hearing last week, Cannon wrote, “The investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the public at large, and the country is best served by an orderly service
Process that encourages interest and perception of fairness.”
Cannon directed the DOJ and Trump’s attorneys to consult and jointly submit a list of proposed Special Master candidates by Friday. She also told them to explain what they felt should be the special master’s duties and limitations, as well as the guard dog’s compensation.
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Trump had asked for a special master to be appointed weeks after the raid in which FBI agents found more than 10,000 government documents, more than 100 of which were secret or top secret.
FBI agents also found four dozen empty document folders marked as “classified,” 43 or found in Trump’s office, during the raid. The remaining five empty folders with this marking were found in containers in a storage room.
The FBI also found another 42 empty folders marked “Return to Staff Secretary/Miliary [sic] Adjutant” during the raid.
The DOJ had opposed the appointment of this watchdog, arguing that Trump had no right to own the records and that a special main audit would delay his ongoing criminal investigation.
But Cannon said on her behalf that she did not believe the Special Master’s review “would result in an unreasonable delay in the current circumstances.”
The DOJ and a Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cannon’s order.