WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a serious setback for the Department of Justice’s investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged personal hoarding of classified documents after leaving the White House, a federal judge approved on Monday the former President’s request that a special master review the materials seized by the FBI last month from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, as well as temporarily putting some aspects of the DOJ probe on hold.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon – a Trump appointee – ruled that the special master should be allowed to examine the documents in question to see if their review by third parties in law enforcement would either constitute a violation of attorney-client privilege; Trump’s attorneys also argue that the documents should be protected by executive privilege, a claim that the DOJ insists does not apply in this situation.
Judge Cannon noted in her ruling that the special master – who functions as an unbiased third party, and is typically a retired judge – would also be able to weed out “personal” papers that may have been improperly seized by the FBI during their Mar-a-Lago raid on August 8.
“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,” she wrote.
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Lawyers representing Trump had previously alleged in a court filing that unless a special master was appointed, “the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for [Trump] but to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators.”
However, the DOJ argued that the appointment of a special master was “unnecessary,” saying that it “would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”
Judge Cannon also put a temporary halt to the probe as it relates to the DOJ’s reviewing the seized documents for “investigative purposes,” although a national security review of the records was allowed to continue. However, Cannon rejected a request made by Trump to have the return items to him that were deemed “personal property” expedited.