Judge Won’t Rule for Now on Trump’s Request for Special Master

Judge Won’t Rule for Now on Trump’s Request for Special Master
Former U.S. President Donald Trump's residence in Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 9, 2022. (Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

A federal judge on Sept. 1 declined to rule immediately on whether to grant former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the documents the FBI seized from his Florida home in August.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said she would not rule yet on Trump’s request.

“The Court will not be entering any order orally, but will be entering a written order in due course,” she said.

Cannon was speaking during a hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach.

A special master is an outside party, typically a retired lawyer, appointed in court cases dealing with sensitive materials. The special master reviews documents seized by the government and separates out those that may be privileged so that investigators don’t see them.

Cannon also said she would not immediately order the release of a more detailed inventory of property seized from Mar-a-Lago, but after the hearing the more detailed inventory was released.

During the hearing, government lawyers said that a Department of Justice (DOJ) filter team already processed the materials removed from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Aug. 8 and separated those that are potentially privileged.

They also claimed that Trump did not need a special master to protect his rights, and that he lacks standing.

Lawyers for the former president disagree.

“The appointment of a special master here is going to help identify the real issues. It is going to help place those issues in the proper context. It is going to give the parties and the Court an orderly path towards resolution of those issues. And perhaps most importantly, Your Honor, I believe, respectfully, it is going to give the American people a greater confidence in the integrity of this process,” Chris Kise, one of the lawyers, told the court.

Agents executed a warrant signed by a different federal judge on the basis of the belief that Trump violated several laws, including one barring the destruction of certain records.

Trump and his lawyers have said he was cooperating with the government and that the execution of a warrant was an extreme step.

Agents discovered classified documents in Trump’s office and a storage room even though an attorney for the former president said in a sworn declaration earlier this year that a “diligent search” had been conducted for records marked classified, and no more remained on the premises.

Trump has said he declassified the records, some of which were marked top secret, a photograph released by U.S. authorities shows.
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