Dearie Named Special Master to Review Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Documents
WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Thursday refused to let the Justice Department immediately resume reviewing classified records seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Florida estate in an ongoing criminal investigation, siding with the former president.
Federal Judge Aileen Cannon also appointed Senior District Judge Raymond Dearie as a third party to review records seized by the FBI for materials that could be privileged and kept from federal investigators.
The Justice Department has promised to take the case to an appeals court if Cannon ruled against their request. They had also sought to block the independent arbiter, Dearie, from vetting the roughly 100 classified documents included among the 11,000 records gathered in the court-approved Aug. 8 search.
Judge Cannon wrote: “The court does not find it appropriate to accept the government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion.”
Cannon, a Trump appointee confirmed by the U.S. Senate just days after Trump lost his bid for reelection, added that she still “firmly” believes that the appointment of a special master, and a temporary injunction against the Justice Department using the documents, is in keeping “with the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances.”
In a signed filing, Dearie accepted the task. Cannon urged him to complete his review by Nov. 30 — more than a month after the Oct. 17 deadline DOJ had asked Cannon to set.
Cannon also clarified certain steps DOJ could take to further its criminal investigation even while the documents remained off-limits, such as “questioning witnesses and obtaining other information about the movement and storage of seized materials, including documents marked as classified, without discussion of their contents.”
Cannon’s ruling denying the Justice Department’s stay makes clear she simply did not buy prosecutors’ argument that there was no way to allow an intelligence community review of the national security impact of the presence of the information at Mar-a-Lago to proceed, while temporarily putting the criminal investigation on hold.
She also ordered the government to provide Mr. Trump’s lawyers with access to the documents marked as classified—those which the Justice Department had described as containing sensitive national security information—under the supervision of the special master.