A federal judge on Monday granted former President Donald Trump’s request that a special master review items the FBI seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and also halted the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of the items for “investigative purposes.”
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointed judge, ruled that a special master will be appointed to review the seized items to determine if any are personal items or items subject to claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
Cannon also ruled that the DOJ must suspend its use of Trump’s items for “investigative purposes” while the special master conducts its review, but also noted that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence could continue its “classification review and/or intelligence assessment.”
Cannon wrote that the court was “mindful of the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented” in granting Trump’s request.
She added that there was a risk of the DOJ leaking materials that would cause harm to the former president.
“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,” Cannon wrote.
The decision comes after the DOJ objected to Trump’s request for the special master.
The DOJ last week urged against Trump’s request for a special master, arguing it was “unnecessary and would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”
Trump’s lawyers had filed a motion for the special master about two weeks after the Mar-a-Lago raid, characterizing the raid as political in nature rather than fair.
“Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes,” Trump’s motion said. “Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid on President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.”
According to a property receipt released shortly after the Mar-a-Lago raid, items seized included “miscellaneous top secret documents,” a “leatherbound box of documents,” and “various classified/TS/SCI documents.”
The decision to grant the special master came as expected after Cannon previously indicated her intention to do so.
The judge also gave both sides until September 9 to propose candidates for the position of special master.
Media critics claimed that Trump’s request for a special master would be “too late,” since the DOJ already had the material for weeks. The judge disagreed, though she noted that questions about executive privilege or the Presidential Records Act would have to be filed and litigated in Washington, DC.