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A federal judge has handed former President Donald Trump a court victory.
U.S. District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Monday ordered that a special master be appointed to review records seized last month by the FBI during a raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
She ordered that an independent third-party be appointed to “review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property.”
“The Court hereby authorizes the appointment of a special master to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney- client and/or executive privilege,” the order states.
“Furthermore, in natural conjunction with that appointment, and consistent with the value and sequence of special master procedures, the Court also temporarily enjoins the Government from reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes pending completion of the special master’s review or further Court order,” it adds.
The order, though, “shall not impede the classification review and/or intelligence assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) as described in the Government’s Notice of Receipt of Preliminary Order.”
At a hearing late last week, Cannon said she would issue a written ruling on Trump’s request “in due time.”
During the hearing, Trump lawyer Jim Trusty slammed the DOJ for allegedly trying to prosecute Trump at all costs, saying the FBI could have “taken an overdue library book” and it would have “suddenly turned into a criminal investigation.”
DOJ attorney Jay Bratt argued that Trump does not have the same legal privileges to classified documents as he did 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, referring to the documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago.
Judge Cannon reportedly appeared skeptical of the DOJ’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,” Fox News reported.
“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.
The Department of Justice submitted a filing on Tuesday to the court explaining its reasoning for opposing Trump’s request for a “special master” to review the seized documents for potential attorney-client privileged and executive privileged documents.
The DOJ’s filing included an attachment of a photo showing supposed “top secret” documents laid out all over the floor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago from the August 8 raid.
Here’s a tweet featuring the photo, which was widely mocked on social media.
The "Top Secret" Mar-a-Lago documents were so secret and Earth-shatteringly important that the FBI agents dumped them on the floor and took pictures of them for their Blue Anon friends in the media. pic.twitter.com/VD8XFB9fEA
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 31, 2022
“That TIME Magazine cover was huge threat to national security,” the GOP House Judiciary said.
That TIME Magazine cover was huge threat to national security. 🙄 https://t.co/yy0AOmxMEh
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) August 31, 2022
The Department of Justice responded to Judge Cannon regarding Trump’s request for a “special master” to be appointed.
The DOJ claimed designating a special master — a third-party lawyer appointed by the court to oversee part of the case — would be a threat to national security.
“The Justice Department argued in a court filing that Trump lacks the legal standing to appoint a special master. Appointing that watchdog could harm national security, the agency warned,” CNBC reported. “The department also said it has evidence that government records likely were concealed and removed from a storage room at Trump’s home at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
“Trump had sued to block the Justice Department from further investigating any materials taken in the raid until a court-appointed special master is able to analyze them. That step is typically taken when there is a chance that some evidence should be withheld from prosecutors because of various legal privileges,” the outlet added.
“As an initial matter, the former President lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight as to Presidential records because those records do not belong to him,” the DOJ wrote to Cannon.