A federal judge on Monday granted former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the trove of documents seized during the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago last month.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is a win for Trump and his legal team and came despite objections from the Justice Department, which argued it had already completed a review of potentially privileged documents.
In her ruling, Cannon agreed to appoint the special master – an independent third party – to review the boxloads of personal items, documents and material seized in the FBI’s Aug. 8 raid that may potentially subject to claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.
“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,” Cannon wrote.
The judge, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, had previously signaled her inclination to authorize the request, asking a DOJ lawyer during arguments last week, “Ultimately, what is the harm of appointing a special master?”
The Justice Department had argued the appointment would slow the pace of its probe into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago and that its filter team had already completed its work.
Federal prosecutors also said Trump couldn’t claim executive privilege because the seized records belonged to the government – and not him.
“He is no longer the president,” Jay Bratt, the department’s top counterintelligence lawyer, said at a Sept. 1 hearing. “And because he is no longer president, he did not have a right to take those documents.”
But Trump’s team of lawyers said their push to have a special master appointed was not akin to a national security scandal, saying it was an “overdue library book scenario.”