OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A federal judge has announced her preliminary intent to appoint a special master, as requested by the attorneys for former President Donald Trump, to review documents that the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen M. Cannon said the decision was made based on submissions from the former president’s attorneys and “the exceptional circumstances presented,” Fox News reported.
A hearing is set for Sept. 1 at 1:00 p.m. in West Palm Beach, Fla. Cannon also ordered the Justice Department to file a response by Aug. 30 and provide, “under seal,” a “more detailed Receipt for Property specifying all property seized pursuant to the search warrant executed on August 8, 2022.”
The current property receipt shows that FBI agents took approximately 20 boxes of items from the premises, including one set of documents marked as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” which refers to top secret/sensitive compartmented information.
Records covered by that government classification level could potentially include human intelligence and information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize relations between the U.S. and other nations, as well as the lives of intelligence operatives abroad. However, the classification also encompasses national security information related to the daily operations of the president of the United States.
“District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida ordered Trump’s lawyers to elaborate on their arguments for why the court has the ability to step in at this time, explain what exactly Trump is asking for and whether the Justice Department has been served with Trump’s special master motion,” CNN previously reported.
“Cannon also asked Trump’s team to weigh in on any effect the request might have on a separate review conducted by a magistrate judge into whether any portions of the still-sealed FBI affidavit laying out a probable cause for the search can be released,” the report added.
Earlier this week, Trump filed a motion for a “special master” to review the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago instead of the Department of Justice.
“The request for a so-called special master to review the documents could be filed as soon as Monday in Florida, the person said, requesting anonymity because the matter isn’t public. Trump also plans to ask for a court order requiring the Department of Justice to provide more details about the property that was seized and to return materials that weren’t covered by the warrant, the person said,” Bloomberg News reported.
The outlet continued:
Trump had previously asserted that some of the records taken from his Mar-a-Lago resort were protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents carted away about 20 boxes containing 11 sets of classified documents — some of them labeled top secret — following the Aug. 8 search. Trump’s passports have already been returned, and it’s unclear what documents the former president claims are protected by the privilege.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich didn’t immediately respond to a message-seeking comment. Christina Bobb, one of his lawyers in the search warrant case, also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart, the judge who approved the FBI’s search warrant, rejected an argument from the Department of Justice and admitted the FBI’s raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was “unprecedented.”
In a Monday morning filing, Reinhart rejected the Justice Department’s argument to keep the affidavit “sealed,” citing the “intense public and historical interest.”
Reinhart wrote that he rejects “the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”
“The Government argues that even requiring it to redact portions of the Affidavit that could not reveal agent identities or investigative sources and methods imposes an undue burden on its resources and sets a precedent that could be disruptive and burdensome in future cases,” Reinhart wrote. “I do not need to reach the question of whether, in some other case, these concerns could justify denying public access; they very well might.”
He added: “Particularly given the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence, the Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing.”
Reinhart said he has given the Justice Department an “opportunity to propose redactions if I declined to seal the entire Affidavit,” something he granted last week, giving the government a deadline of Thursday, Aug. 25 at noon.
“Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that by the deadline, the Government shall file under seal a submission addressing possible redactions and providing any additional evidence or legal argument that the Government believes relevant to the pending Motions to Unseal,” the motion states.