Judge States Intent To Appoint Special Master For Review Of Seized Trump Docs

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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A federal judge announced her “preliminary intent” Saturday to appoint a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago in early August.

U.S. District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Aileen M. Cannon made the announcement after former President Donald Trump filed a motion Monday to request that a special master review the materials. The former president accused the federal government of failing to provide “any reason for the unprecedented, general search of his home.”

Cannon said she agreed with Trump and his lawyers on the appointment after reviewing the case, according to the motion. She ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a response on appointing a special master and providing a “more detailed” list of seized items by August 30. A hearing is scheduled to be held Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida to deliberate the matter.

“In accordance with Rule 53, the parties are advised to include in their filings their respective and particularized positions on the duties and responsibilities of a prospective special master, along with any other considerations pertinent to the appointment of a special master in this case,” the preliminary order reads.

Special masters are commonly appointed to review disputed documents, particularly those protected under attorney-client privilege, according to the New York Times. The former president’s lawyers argued that many of these documents could be protected under attorney-client and executive privilege, though judges and legal scholars have expressed skepticism at this argument.

The current Receipt of Property details that 20 boxes of documents and four sets of top secret material were retrieved by the FBI. The document found that the agents discovered 11 sets of classified material inside Mar-a-Lago. She further ordered the Justice Department to indicate the status of their review on the documents and include its “respective and particularized positions” on the responsibilities of a special master.

The DOJ has currently been reviewing the documents under a “taint” or “filter” team to identify which material fell under attorney-client privilege, Fox News reported. Several boxes retrieved by the FBI—A-14, A-26, A-43, A-13, A-33—contained material labeled under attorney-client privilege. (RELATED: Trump Responds After DOJ Unseals Affidavit Related To Mar-A-Lago Raid)

Cannon found the initial request for a special master to be confusing and requested Trump and his counsel provide several clarifications, according to the New York Times. The former president and his lawyers submitted a revised motion Friday, just hours after the release of the heavily redacted affidavit used by the DOJ to obtain the search warrant.

The initial filing argued that Trump’s constitutional rights had been violated following the unprecedented raid.

“President Trump, like all citizens, is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Property seized in violation of his constitutional rights must be returned forthwith,” the initial filing read. “Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes. Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid on President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.”

The government suspects the storage of these documents are a violation of three federal statutes — 18 USC 793, the act of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” and 18 USC 2071, which outlaws the “concealment, removal or mutilation,” of classified material, according to Fox News. The third, 18 USC 1519, outlaws the “destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.”