DOJ and Trump Submit Joint Filing for Special Master Candidates

The Justice Department and the Trump lawyers submitted their joint filing late Friday, each with two choices for Special Master and several disagreements about how the process should work.

The filing was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ahead of a midnight deadline set by Judge Aileen Cannon.

The DOJ Candidates

Thomas Griffith, a retired federal judge and George W. Bush appointee, served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals from 2005 to 2020. In one of his final major rulings before retiring, he wrote the majority opinion rejecting House Democrats’ attempt to subpoena Trump’s former White House Counsel Don McGahn. (The decision was later overturned.) Since retirement, Griffith co-authored reports debunking the Big Lie, and also publicly endorsed Ketanji Brown Jackson as a Supreme Court nominee.

Barbara Jones, another retired federal judge and a Clinton appointee, is a former federal prosecutor and a retired judge from the Southern District of New York from 1995 to 2012. She brings a lot of special master experience to the table.

  • Jones served as special master for materials seized in the FBI raid of Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in April 2021.
  • She was also special master in the Michael Cohen case, keeping attorney-client privileged materials separate from the investigation.
  • Jones also served as special master in a case against Project Veritas, separating First Amendment and attorney-client privileged materials.

The Trump Candidates

Paul Huck, Jr., a former partner at Jones Day and contributor to the Federalist Society who served in Florida state government under former Republican Govs. Charlie Crist — now a Democrat — and Rick Scott. Current Trump lawyer Chris Kise worked for Crist along with Huck, at the Florida Attorney General office. Huck’s wife, Barbara Lagoa, was on Trump’s short list as a Supreme Court nominee after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.

Raymond Dearie, a Reagan nominee, has served as a federal judge in New York since 1986. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit. He worked on a FISA court, and was one of the judges who approved an FBI and DOJ request to surveil Carter Page.

Two of the four surveillance warrants granted by the secretive FISA court regarding Page have since been declared invalid — including one approved by Dearie in June 2017 — because of omissions and mistakes in the FBI’s submissions to the court.

The Trump team’s nomination of Dearie is notable because Trump has repeatedly criticized the FISA surveillance and has claimed — without evidence — that it was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign.

Disagreements over how the Special Master should work

  • The government would like the review process to finish by Oct. 12, while Trump’s team says it may take 90 days. The government also does not believe the special master should review classified documents or adjudicate claims of executive privilege, which they have argued Trump has no claim over as a former president. The Justice Department would like to confer with Trump’s team on whether materials are privileged before they go to the special master, but the Trump team would like items all items seized in the search submitted directly to the special master.
  • They also disagree on who bears the cost of the special master. The DOJ proposed that Trump’s team pay the expense of the special master’s work since they requested it, while Trump’s lawyers propose an even split.
  • It’s not yet clear when the differences in the role of special master will be sorted, or when the special master would be selected. Both parties have until Monday to review each others’ preferred candidates.

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