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U.S. judge agrees to special master in Trump search case, delaying probe

Politics Sep 06, 2022 05:31AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A redacted FBI photograph of documents and classified cover sheets recovered from a container stored in former U.S. president Donald Trump's Florida estate, and which was included in a U.S. Department of Justice filing and released August 30,

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A federal judge on Monday agreed to appoint a special master to review records seized by the FBI during its search of former President Donald Trump's Florida estate, a move that is likely to delay the Justice Department's criminal investigation.

In her ruling https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763.64.0.pdf, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach, Florida, granted Trump's request for a special master, an independent third party who is sometimes assigned in sensitive cases to review materials that could be covered by attorney-client privilege.

Cannon said the person will be tasked with reviewing documents that are not just covered by attorney-client privilege, but any records possibly covered by executive privilege as well.

The decision to allow a special master to review documents that could be covered by executive privilege, a legal doctrine that can shield some White House records from disclosure, is uncharted legal territory.

Cannon also ordered the Justice Department to stop reviewing the records as part of its criminal investigation, a move that will likely at least temporarily hinder its ability to continue investigating.

However, Cannon said U.S. intelligence officials could continue conducting their review into whether the records could pose any damage to national security if exposed.

Trump is under investigation for removing government records, some of which were marked as highly classified, from the White House after he departed in January 2021, and storing them in his home at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

The Justice Department has said it is also investigating possible obstruction, after the FBI uncovered evidence that Trump's team may have deliberately concealed classified documents when agents tried to recover them in June.

If the special master decides some of the material is covered by Trump's executive privilege claims, it could hamper the government's investigation.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020 just months before he left office, rejected the government's argument that the records belong to the government and that Trump is no longer president and therefore cannot claim executive privilege.

She gave Trump's legal team and the Justice Department until Friday to jointly file a proposed list of special master candidates. Whomever the court ultimately taps will need to have the requisite security clearances and legal expertise.

It is unclear whether the Justice Department will appeal Cannon's ruling, or on what basis it would do so.

“The United States is examining the opinion and will consider appropriate next steps in the ongoing litigation,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said.

Representatives for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

However, in a post on his Truth Social platform following Cannon's ruling, Trump wrote: "Remember, it takes courage and 'guts' to fight a totally corrupt Department of 'Justice' and the FBI."

`A WHOLE LOT OF SPECIAL TREATMENT`

Some legal experts on Monday called the judge's order deeply flawed.

"This is not something courts do," said Jonathan Shaub, a former Justice Department attorney.

He said it was odd for Cannon to block the Justice Department from reviewing the records at this stage in the investigation, before an indictment has even been returned.

"It's giving a whole lot of special treatment," Shaub said.

Cannon in her ruling justified her actions by claiming that Trump faces the stigma of having had his home searched, and any future indictment based on the seizure of those records would cause "reputational harm."

Trump, without evidence, has accused the Justice Department of launching a partisan witch-hunt against him. His lawyers argued that the appointment of an independent third-party to review the materials would be an important check on the government.

The Justice Department argued that it made no sense to appoint a special master because its filter team - a group of agents who are not part of the investigation - had completed its work.

The agents located and set aside about 520 pages that could be subject to attorney-client privilege, prosecutors said at a Sept. 1 hearing. The rest of the records have already been reviewed by the investigative team for the criminal probe.

In her ruling on Monday, Cannon said she has lingering concerns about how the Justice Department has conducted its privilege review, saying she was aware of at least two instances in which members of the investigative team were exposed to materials which were later designated as potentially privileged.

"Those instances alone, even if entirely inadvertent, yield questions about the adequacy of the filter review process," she wrote.

Many former Justice Department attorneys, both Democrats and Republicans, have criticized Trump's call for a special master.

"I don't think a special master makes sense in connection with executive privilege material," former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump appointee, told Reuters in an interview.

"If the documents are subject to executive privilege they involve official deliberations about executive actions, and by definition, those documents belong to the government."

John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser who also previously served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Division, called the judge's ruling "amateurish" and not well-reasoned.

"My recommendation to the Justice Department is appeal immediately the temporary injunction, but cooperate and expedite the actual implementation of the judge's order," Bolton said in an interview.

U.S. judge agrees to special master in Trump search case, delaying probe
 

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Comments (22)
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 06, 2022 12:36PM ET
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We'll have to see if this pans out to be fair and legitimate, but if it  is and it helps alleviate some people's concerns that this investigation is partisan, I'm all for it. I just hope the delay doesn't result in harm to the pursuit of justice.
gab nea
gab nea Sep 06, 2022 8:12AM ET
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when you cant defend, you delay, delay, delay! nothing will help with mounting crimes!
Nils Hullmann
Nils Hullmann Sep 06, 2022 4:41AM ET
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double digit CPI during midterms will convince not to vote dems
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Sep 06, 2022 3:43AM ET
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more delay tactics from this disgusting traitor and criminal. lock him up already!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 06, 2022 3:42AM ET
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I remember when I got fired from my government job, took secret records home with me and refused to give them to the FBI when they asked for them. I got off with a weekend of community service. No big deal.
Ferdinando Riboni
Ferdinando Riboni Sep 06, 2022 12:10AM ET
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love you Trump
First Last
First Last Sep 06, 2022 12:10AM ET
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That's Trump's sentiment, too.
gab nea
gab nea Sep 05, 2022 7:53PM ET
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it really is funny the orange menace got away with criminality all his life and now lying and obstructing the archives is going to bring him down, a la al capone!
Gary Miele
Gary Miele Sep 05, 2022 7:53PM ET
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The only persons that got Amway with criminality is the Biden Crime Family and the Clinton clan, especially the hilderbeast who bleached disk drives and deleted 30,000 emails under subpoena . Hintets laptop proves it all.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 05, 2022 7:53PM ET
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Gary Miele  you are just throwing random phrases you heard from OAN together, you need to put in more effort in your rant
gab nea
gab nea Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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he moved to bedminster in New Jersey for the summer with his secret service detail. the special master doesn't defend why he stole so many government documents including secrets ? then lied and obstructed about it, why did it mean so much to him to keep the loot? can he be a spy for russia?
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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umm the secret service was there when the FBI showed up..
gab nea
gab nea Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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Robert Sharp yep courtesy between enforcement agents against a criminal ex.!
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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gab nea.. so you agree with me the secret service was there. thanks! .. and just FYI, a special master would only be there to make sure they didn't take stuff like attorney-client privileged materials. You know, the stuff that would actually be illegal for the FBI to have taken? They wouldn't have any power to deny the FBI the right to documents it was ok for them to take based on the warrant. And btw, if Trump did somehow break the law, you know, like Hillary, Sandy Berger and the like, he should get off just like they did right? I mean, you do believe in the law being handed out evenly?
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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that doesn't affect anything I said though, which is my point. You agree with rules for thee and not for me whereas I do not. I would be embarrassed if conservatives had such double standards as the left does. Actually that's wrong. The left, as Biden's recent speech confirms, believes in a hiarchy where they are at the top and everyone who disagrees is a threat to their power. If you support that then there is nothing I can say to sway you even to close to the middle. For 6 years this guy has been hammered with investigation after investigation, impeachment after impeachment, with zero to show for it. I would think that anyone on either side with even a shred of intellectual honesty could step back and start to ask questions about it all. Either Trump is so smart that he has outsmarted the entirety of one side of the senate and the entire FBI/DOJ, or all of it has been BS from the start. Which one makes more sense?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 05, 2022 7:46PM ET
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@Rober: If I were advancing a defense of Trump, I would want to make sure I wasn't being a putz by knowing what motivated Tump to take and then conceal these records from the FBI in defiance of a subpoena. Do you have an answer to that question, or are you working on blind allegiance?
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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Point 1.. Mara Lago is secured by secret service agents 24/7/365. No chance these documents are unsafe. Point 2.. Trump probably has more top secret things in his head so it means nothing that he has documents with sensitive materials since he could just write something down on a piece of paper. Point 3.. rumor has it the FBI was looking for crossfire hurricane documents they feared Trump would use against them which is why Garland took so long to even ok the raid since they weren't sure he kept those docs at his home. Point 4.. with all the leaks from the DOJ and FBI to this point, if they found something it would have been leaked within a millisecond of its discovery which tells me they found squat and this is now just a argument about where documents should be stored. Waste of time and a huge violation of Trump's 4th amendment rights.
Show previous replies (4)
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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I remember when I got fired from my government job, took secret records home with me and refused to give them to the FBI when they asked for them. I got of with a weekend of community service. No big deal.
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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every president has taken home something that the national archives (since they have been around anyway) has requested be returned. It has always been a back and forth about what they keep and what they send back, even when it comes to classified documents. Remember Clinten and the tapes in his sock drawer? The 2012 case involving said sock drawer concluded that former presidents have the sole discretion as to classification or declassification of documents, and to determine what is personal for them to keep after they are out of the presidency, even if those personal items were classified at some point. The national archives doesn't have that authority, and neither does anyone in the FBI/DOJ. But it is concerning that they found the secret nuclear documents. Oh wait, they didn't find any secret nuclear documents? I would say I'm shocked but I'm not.
Don Getty
Don Getty Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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ex pres. have very small details who are with the pres. the minute he left the palace they did as well. Those doc were not safe in any way at all - no 24/7 detail as you imply but nice spin
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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The judge's opinion was that the National Archives did not have the authority to retrieve recordings of interviews with Clinton made by an author. In Trump's case, he defied an FBI subpoena, for records made by the government.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 05, 2022 7:21PM ET
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"Trump probably has more top secret things in his head" -- this made me laughed out so much I spit out my coffee
Notvery Goodathis
Peteymcletey Sep 05, 2022 6:51PM ET
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If nothing happened to Hillary, nothing should happen here.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 05, 2022 6:51PM ET
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Don't you boys have school tomorrow?
Raj Guleria
Raj Guleria Sep 05, 2022 6:51PM ET
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it's a joke to compare Trump joker with any other human let alone Hillary ....he is a nut case ....a liar who can steal too .....fit for ONLY a circus show ! It's a tragedy that millions of Americans still believe his lies even when he was personally responsible for thousands of deaths due to his criminal handling of COVID ....remember !
Robert Sharp
Robert Sharp Sep 05, 2022 6:51PM ET
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Raj.. as a friendly PSA, when they ask you to drink the kool-aid.. don't.
 
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