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Trump-appointed judge grants Trump’s request for special master to review government documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago

Bloomberg reports that Trump-appointed federal judge Aileen Cannon has granted Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review documents recovered by federal agents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago villa and supper club.

Cannon also instructed federal agents to temporarily halt their use of documents recovered in the August raid in its investigation of potential criminal activity by Trump.  She did allow the documents to be used by national security officials to determine the exposure created by Trump having the classified documents in an unsecured basement storage room at his Florida club.

Appointed to the federal bench less than a week after the 2020 presidential election was called for President Joe Biden, Cannon said the special master would review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property.  The exact operation of the special master will be decided after the two sides submit proposals for the process.

Cannon’s ruling seems to fly in the face of legal precedent, in which a defendant does not have the right to claim any type of ownership or privilege for documents he does not legally possess, and the vast majority of material seized from Mar-a-Lago was government property.  While the finding is a blow to the rapid investigation of the event, it does not permanently halt any potential investigation or prosecution.

Trump “ultimately may not be entitled to return of much of the seized property or to prevail on his anticipated claims of privilege. That inquiry remains for another day,” Cannon wrote. “For now, the circumstances surrounding the seizure in this case and the associated need for adequate procedural safeguards are sufficiently compelling to at least get Plaintiff past the courthouse doors.”

The Department of Justice had already had a special “privilege review” team–separate from any investigators involved in the case–look through the documents for any potential issues of attorney-client privilege; the team returned a number of documents to Trump, but Cannon apparently was not satisfied with the measures taken by officials, which is the same process taken by the Department in any case where there are potential confidential issues.  Cannon apparently feels Trump needs special handling because he’s a Republican politician.

Both side have until September 9th to submit a list of candidates to be special master.

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