Washington- A federal judge agreed on Monday to appoint a neutral third party known as a special master to review items seized by the FBI during its search of former President Donald Trump’s South Florida residence, and prevented the Department of Justice to continue to use the material in its investigation. while the exam is in progress.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said in a 24-page order that the special master would be tasked with reviewing seized assets for “potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.” In the meantime, the government must stop “reviewing and using the seized documents for investigative purposes pending the completion of the master’s special examination or another court order.”
But Cannon authorized the government to continue to review and use the seized documents “for purposes of intelligence classification and national security assessments.”
Trump’s lawyers and Justice Department prosecutors have until September 9 to “meaningfully confer” and submit a joint filing to the court that includes a list of proposed candidates to serve as special petty officer as well as a proposed description of review mechanisms.
Trump’s request for a special master came two weeks after the FBI executed the search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, when agents took 33 items from a storage room at the property. and the office of the former president. More than 100 documents bearing classification marks were found in 13 boxes or containers, while three documents bearing “confidential” and “secret” classification marks were removed from the offices of Trump’s office in Mar-a-Lago, revealed the Department of Justice in a latest filing. month.
The FBI also found 48 empty folders with ‘classified’ banners alongside newspaper and magazine articles, books and clothing kept in boxes or containers recovered from the storage room, according to a detailed list of assets. excerpts from Mar-a-Lago made public. Last week.
The former president has argued that an independent third party should be appointed in order to protect his constitutional rights and told the court last month that the FBI had taken “allegedly privileged” documents from his tenure. Trump also criticized the Justice Department for what he called an “unprecedented, unnecessary and without legal basis” search of his property, and claimed the sensitive records he brought with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency are “his own presidential records”.
But the Justice Department, which opposed the appointment of a special master, told the court that the documents seized by the FBI were not for Trump to keep, but rather belonged to the federal government and should have be returned to the National Archives and Records Administration upon completion of administration.
Federal prosecutors also argued that a special master was not necessary because an FBI screening team – used to sift through and separate potentially privileged documents – hadrecords that may be covered by attorney-client or executive privileges.
Investigators are investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents, specifically records he brought from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when he left office in January 2021, as well as possible obstruction of the ‘investigation.
The investigation stemmed from a referral made by the Archives in February, after it recovered 15 boxes containing presidential records from Mar-a-Lago following efforts to recover the documents that. FBI agents conducted a preliminary examination of the boxes in May and found 184 documents bearing classification marks, according to the Justice Department.
In asubmitted Aug. 30, federal prosecutors said the government developed evidence that “government records were likely hidden and removed” from the Mar-a-Lago storage room after the Justice Department obtained and served a grand jury subpoena for any documents in Trump’s possession bearing classification markings. They also alleged that “efforts were likely made to impede” the Justice Department’s investigation.
Cannon held a hearing on Trump’s request for a special master last week, but declined to issue a ruling from the bench. She did, however, order the release of the detailed list of property seized by the FBI during its search of Mar-a-Lago, which was made public on Friday, along with the government’s description of the status of its examinations.