Judge Grants Trump Bid for Special Master in Document Search

(WASHINGTON)—A federal judge on Monday granted a request by former President Donald Trump’s legal team to appoint a special master to review documents seized by the FBI from his Florida home last month and also temporarily halted the Justice Department’s use of the records for investigative purposes.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Bannon made the decision despite objections from the Justice Department. They claimed that an outside lawyer was unnecessary because the review of potentially privileged documents had been completed by officials. The judge had previously signaled her inclination to approve a special master, asking a department lawyer during arguments this month, “What is the harm?”

The appointment is likely to slow the pace of the department’s investigation into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago given the judge’s directive that the Justice Department may not for the moment use any of the seized materials for investigative purposes. However, it’s not certain that the appointment will have any impact on the outcome or investigative decisions.

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Cannon was elected to the U.S. bench by Trump in 2020.

Trump’s lawyers had argued that a special master — usually an outside lawyer or former judge — was necessary to ensure an independent review of records taken during the Aug. 8 search. According to them, such a review was needed in order for any information or documents found by the FBI to be removed and returned by Trump. Additionally, documents covered by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege should also be segregated.

The Justice Department had opposed this appointment, declaring that the Justice Department already had reviewed potentially confidential documents and had identified limited materials that may be subject to attorney-client privilege.

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The department also stated that Trump is not eligible to return any presidential records taken because he no longer holds the office of president. Therefore, the documents do not belong. The department also stated that personal items found were mixed with classified information which could have potential evidence value.

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