Court Battle Set to Begin as DOJ Seeks to Cancel Trump’s Special Master in Fight Over Papers Seized at Mar-a-Lago

Court Battle Set to Begin as DOJ Seeks to Cancel Trump’s Special Master in Fight Over Papers Seized at Mar-a-Lago
Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president in the 2024 presidential election during an announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15, 2022. (Alon Skuy/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

A legal battle will get underway in a federal appeals court on Tuesday. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to argue against a September order appointing an outside special master to review documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Such an appointment is, in effect, keeping those records out of investigators’ hands as they press ahead with a criminal probe against Trump.

The expedited hearing is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. EST on Nov. 22 in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, according to court documents (pdf).
The Justice Department said in a legal brief filed ahead of the hearing that Trump should have been denied the appointment of the special master.
A judge agreed on Sept. 5 to insert the special master—a type of independent arbiter who assists with sensitive cases—into the review process for records that the FBI seized from Trump’s Florida home in August.

But DOJ lawyers argued in the brief that the judge, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, issued “an unprecedented order … restricting an ongoing criminal investigation by prohibiting the Executive Branch from reviewing and using evidence” that was taken during the FBI search.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump violated any laws in relation to the removal of records from the White House and for possible obstruction of justice.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and called the FBI raid a “prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want [him] to run for President in 2024.”
Trump’s lawyers have asserted executive privilege over some of the documents, while arguing that others were personal papers rather than government documents, and that he had the power as the outgoing president to declare them as such.

The special master is reviewing the seized materials to determine which, if any, were protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

But the Justice Department wants to cancel the special master review, which then would make the materials available to investigators probing Trump over the handling of the documents.

Separately, the DOJ also argued in the brief that the court should lift an injunction preventing investigators from examining the documents that are under special master review.

‘Horrendous Abuse of Power’

The DOJ has already managed to extract from the special master’s review those documents marked classified, but prosecutors are now trying to get access to all materials the FBI took when they raided Trump’s home.

Days after Trump declared he’s running for president in 2024, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to lead the probe into the handling of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump has characterized Garland’s move as a “horrendous abuse of power” and the “latest in the long series of witch hunts.”

Garland has called his decision to appoint a special counsel part of the DOJ’s “commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.”

The White House has denied politicization of the Justice Department after Trump alleged that the appointment of the special counsel amounted to a “weaponization” of the DOJ and a ploy meant to impede his bid for the presidency.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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