U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, set a hearing for Thursday at a courthouse in West Palm Beach, according to court documents (pdf) filed on Saturday.
Cannon signaled a “preliminary intent” to grant the request for a special master—a third-party attorney appointed by a court, typically a retired judge—to oversee the materials that were taken.
Trump and his lawyers have argued that a special master is necessary to ensure the Department of Justice returns any of his private documents seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago, and identifies any of the documents that might be protected by executive privilege. They also cited other cases in which one has been approved, including after agents seized materials from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
According to the court documents filed on Saturday, Cannon has also given federal officials until the end of the month, specifically on or before Aug. 30, to provide the court with a more detailed list of items the FBI removed from Trump’s Florida estate on Aug. 8 under seal.
Lawyers for the former president have accused investigators of failing to disclose enough information to them about what specific documents were removed from Mar-a-Lago and have asked investigators to return any items outside the scope of the search warrant.
Cannon also requested that the DOJ provide the court with a “particularized notice indicating the status of Defendant’s review of the seized property, including any filter review conducted by the privilege review team and any dissemination of materials beyond the privilege review team.”
Not a Final Determination
“Pursuant to Rule 53(b) (1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court’s inherent authority, and without prejudice to the parties’ objections, the Court hereby provides notice of its preliminary intent to appoint a special master in this case,” Cannon wrote.
The judge noted, however, that the preliminary order “should not be construed as a final determination” on Trump’s motion.
On Monday, the DOJ told the judge in a court filing (pdf) that it has already conducted a review of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago and found “a limited set of materials” from its search that potentially contain material covered by attorney-client privilege. It is in the process of addressing privilege disputes, according to the documents, which noted that the review was carried out before Trump’s request.
That effectively undercuts Trump’s request to have a special master oversee the documents.
“Additionally, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are currently facilitating a classification review of materials recovered pursuant to the search,” prosecutors said. “As the Director of National Intelligence advised Congress, ODNI is also leading an intelligence community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of these materials.”
A significantly redacted affidavit unsealed on Aug. 26 revealed that federal agents were attempting to obtain “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of three potential crimes” during the Aug. 8 raid.
There has still not been any public statement by the DOJ nor the FBI as to what exactly agents were searching for at Mar-a-Lago or why.
Elsewhere on Monday, Cannon granted a motion by the DOJ to respond to Trump’s petition for a special master with a page length that exceeds the 20-page limit on opposition moratoriums, noting that Trump’s lawyers filed a 27-page and 10-page motion and supplemental motion in his special master request.
“The government seeks to file a response up to forty pages in length in order to adequately address the legal and factual issues raised by Plaintiffs Motion and Supplement and the Court’s August 17 order requiring a response from the government,” the DOJ wrote.
From The Epoch Times