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Federal judge grants Trump’s special master request to review Mar-a-Lago materials


A federal judge on Monday has granted former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the trove of documents seized during the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago last month, saying some of the materials were medical or tax-related.

The decision by US 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 a special master — an independent third party — to review the boxloads of personal items, documents and material seized in the FBI’s Aug. 8 raid on Trump’s home that may potentially be subject to claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.

“In addition to being deprived of potentially significant personal documents, which alone creates a real harm, plaintiff faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public,” Cannon wrote in her ruling.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, said in her order that some of the seized materials included “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes and accounting information.”

The judge ordered the DOJ to stop reviewing and using the seized documents as part of its criminal investigation until the special master can complete a review. She will, however, allow US intelligence officials to continue a classification review and national security risk assessment.

Cannon — who gave Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ until Friday to file a proposed list of special master candidates — 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 tried to argue 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 — made up of agents not part of the probe — had already completed its work.

But Cannon cast doubt on the reliability of the investigative review process, noting in her Monday order that investigators appeared to have already been “exposed” to potentially privileged material.

“Without delving into specifics, the Privilege Review Team’s Report references at least two instances in which members of the Investigative Team were exposed to material that was then delivered to the Privilege Review Team and, following another review, designated as potentially privileged material,” she wrote.

“Those instances alone, even if entirely inadvertent, yield questions about the adequacy of the filter review process.”

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors had also previously argued 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.”

His lawyers accused a “politicized” DOJ of trying to thwart their efforts to have the special master installed so that federal investigators could just go “unchecked, unobserved, unmonitored.”

The latest decision came after Cannon last week approved the unsealing of a more detailed inventory list of the items seized during the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home, which included a number of classified documents and dozens of folders marked “classified” that were empty.

The rundown of documents showed that federal agents also took innocuous items, including the former president’s clothing magazine and newspaper clippings that he kept.

In total, 11,179 government documents and photographs seized by the FBI bore no classification markings at all. By contrast, 54 documents were marked “SECRET” and another 18 were “TOP SECRET.”

The Justice Department has alleged in previous court filings that sensitive government records were hidden in and removed from Mar-a-Lago’s storage room — and that the FBI was misled about the continued presence of classified documents there.

Prosecutors argued that Trump’s records custodian falsely certified in June that a “diligent search” had been conducted and all government records had been returned to the government in the months prior to the raid.

Trump issued a statement Monday in the wake of the judge’s ruling, saying “it takes courage and ‘guts’ to fight a totally corrupt Department of ‘Justice’ and the FBI.”

“They are being pushed to do the wrong thing by many sinister outside sources,” he continued. “Until impartiality, wisdom, fairness, and courage are shown by them, our Country can never come back or recover—it will be reduced to being a Third World Nation!”

During a rally in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump had slammed the Justice Department and FBI as “vicious monsters.”

“The shameful raid and break-in of my home at Mar-a-Lago was a travesty of justice that made a mockery of America’s laws, traditions and principles before the entire world,” Trump told supporters during a nearly two-hour speech.

“The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical leftist scoundrels, lawyers and the media who tell them what to do — you people right there — and when to do it,” he continued, while pointing to a media box.

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