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Tuesday, September 6, 2022 – A judge has granted former US president, Donald Trump’s request to have a special master review the documents seized during the raid on Mar-a-Lago in August.
The decision, from Trump-appointed District Judge Aileen Cannon on Monday. September 5, is a significant victory for the former President, who has criticized the Biden administration and Justice Department since the search on his property in Florida was executed four weeks ago.
Cannon ordered that a third-party attorney, from outside the government, be brought in to review the materials that were taken from Trump’s home and resort in Florida.
The order also halts the Justice Department from continuing its review of the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago “pending completion of the special master’s review or further Court order.”
The classification review and intelligence assessments being conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, however, will be allowed to continue, the judge ruled.
The judges ruling comes after Trump’s lawyers argued that a special master was needed because they don’t trust the Justice Department to fairly identify privileged materials that would need to be excluded from the ongoing criminal probe.
“As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own,” Cannon wrote.
“A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.”
The judge said Trump’s lawyers and the department of Justice have until Friday to nominate special master candidates and their specific duties.
Trump blasted the Justice Department and the seizure at his rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
“This egregious abuse of the law is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before,” he said. “… these same exact people at Justice and the FBI, these same exact people, along with outside scum, are at it again with the horrific raid of my home. They just go on and on and they have to be stopped.” he said
However, Cannon wrote that Trump had not proven that his constitutional rights were disregarded.
“(T)he Court agrees with the Government that, at least based on the record to date, there has not been a compelling showing of callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” she wrote.
But Cannon outlined several reasons for bringing in the special master, among them “the interest in ensuring the integrity of an orderly process amidst swirling allegations of bias and media leaks.” She also said the case was ahistoric one.
The judge said the special master will be tasked with reviewing “seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.”
“The Court is mindful that restraints on criminal prosecutions are disfavored but finds that these unprecedented circumstances call for a brief pause to allow for neutral, third-party review to ensure a just process with adequate safeguards.” She added
The judge also revealed that the FBI obtained Trump medical and tax information in search.
Cannon noted that Justice Department lawyers had acknowledged it seized some “[p]ersonal effects without evidentiary value,” as well as 500 pages of material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.
“To appoint a special master to make privilege determinations while simultaneously allowing the Government, in the interim, to continue using potentially privileged material for investigative purposes would be to ignore the pressing concerns and hope for the best,” the judge said.
She wrote that Trump’s “individual interest in and need for the seized property” was one reason to rule in favor of Trump’s requests for a special master.