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

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

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach, Florida granted Trump’s request for a special master, whom she said will be tasked with reviewing documents that as well as being potentially covered by attorney-client privilege could also be covered by executive privilege.

She 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 she would permit U.S. intelligence officials to continue conducting a classification review, as well as a national security damage assessment review.

Cannon’s 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, has never been done before.

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 rejected the government’s argument against appointing a special master to review materials potentially covered by executive privilege. The Justice Department had said the records belong to the government and that Trump is no longer president.

“The government asserts that executive privilege has no role to play here because plaintiff—a former head of the executive branch—is entirely foreclosed from successfully asserting executive privilege against the current executive branch,” wrote Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020 just months before he left office.

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

Cannon rejected the government’s argument against appointing a special master to review materials potentially covered by executive privilege. The Justice Department had said the records belong to the government and that Trump is no longer president.

“The government asserts that executive privilege has no role to play here because plaintiff—a former head of the executive branch—is entirely foreclosed from successfully asserting executive privilege against the current executive branch,” wrote Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020 just months before he left office.

via Reuters

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