The request by former President Donald Trump to appoint a “special master” was granted by a federal judge. The special master will review the documents that the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago last month. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision is a major victory for Trump, who has railed against the Biden administration and the Justice Department since the search was carried out four weeks ago. Judge Aileen Cannon was appointed by Trump.
“As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own,” Cannon wrote. “A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude,” she added.
Documents reviewed by government employees had only been set aside for solicitor-client privilege-protected documents, based on their argument that the privilege did not apply. “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 stated. However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will be allowed to continue with its classification review and intelligence assessments, said NBC News.
In a recent court filing, lawyers for Trump argued that “left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation with no recourse for [Trump] but to somehow trust the self-restraint of currently unchecked investigators.” A special master “is unnecessary and would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests,” according to the Department of Justice, which argued against it.
Although Cannon largely ruled in favor of Trump, she concurred with the government in finding that no evidence of “callous disregard” for Trump’s constitutional rights was present. “With respect to the first factor, the Court agrees with the Government that, at least based on the record to date, there has not been a compelling showing of callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” Cannon stated.
Cannon also criticized the handling of sensitive files by the Justice Department’s screening team, which allowed them to be seen by a separate team of investigators. The ruling “temporarily enjoins the Government from reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes,” Cannon wrote, noting that the national security review can continue.
At his Pennsylvania rally, Trump slammed the Justice Department and the seizure of documents. “This egregious abuse of the law is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before,” he declared. “… these same exact people at Justice and the FBI, these same exact people, along with outside scum, are at it again with the horrific raid of my home. They just go on and on and they have to be stopped.”
The government records show that federal investigators have seized or been given 103 classified as “CONFIDENTIAL,” 162 labeled “SECRET” and 60 documents marked “TOP SECRET.” Furthermore, Trump was found to be in possession of 90 empty files.
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