A federal judge gave the impression on Thursday that she was still considering granting former President Donald J. Trump’s request to appoint an independent arbiter to go through the documents that the FBI seized from him last month, but she refrained from making a final decision on the matter. Trump has requested that the documents be reviewed by someone who is not affiliated with Trump.
Following a hearing that lasted close to two hours, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, stated that she would issue a written order “in due course” regarding the question of whether or not to appoint a so-called special master in the case. The judge’s decision was to reserve judgement on the matter.
Notably, Judge Cannon did not issue an order for the F.B.I. to halt working with the files, despite the fact that the Justice Department has said that the files have already been subjected to an initial examination by law enforcement personnel.
In addition, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in the year 2020, has indicated that she will unseal a more detailed list of the documents that the F.B.I. took during its search of Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in the state of Florida on August 8th. Mar-a-Lago is located in Florida. Earlier, she had given the order to the Justice Department to comply with Mr. Trump’s legal team’s request to supply them with the list. It was unclear when it will be made known to the general public.
During the course of the hearing, Judge Cannon questioned the government in an effort to get an explanation on the potential consequences of appointing a special master.
Jay I. Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence section of the Justice Department, told her that appointing a special master could slow down an assessment of the risk and damage to national security that is currently being conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — as well as an assessment of whether or not the seized documents contain the kind of national security secrets whose unauthorised retention is a crime under the Espionage Act. Bratt also told her that appointing a special master could
However, Judge Cannon gave the impression that if she did appoint a special master, she would do it in a fashion that would not interfere with the evaluation of the potential threats to the safety of the courthouse.
The court did not make it clear whether she would restrict the scope of any special master’s work to putting aside a limited number of documents that may be entitled to attorney-client privilege or if she would limit the work of any special master to that.
The F.B.I. has said that it has already located and stored around sixty of these papers, which leads one to believe that the investigation being conducted by the Justice Department would not be hampered by the appointment of a special master to concentrate on this subject.
But Mr. Trump’s legal team also wants a potential special master to examine the seized materials to determine whether or not any of them are protected by executive privilege. Executive privilege is a legal doctrine that prevents the disclosure of confidential internal communications within the executive branch.
According to the statements made by the Justice Department, the privilege of the executive branch cannot be used in order to prevent a portion of the executive branch, such as the department itself, from accessing government files as part of its official tasks.
James Trusty, one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, referred to the appointment of a special master as a “very humble proposal” when speaking during the hearing.
However, one of the attorneys working for the Justice Department, Julie Edelstein, responded that if a special master proceeded beyond putting aside attorney-client confidential papers and looked into matters pertaining to presidential privilege, “that would not be modest – it would be unprecedented.”
At another point, Mr. Trusty attempted to play down the seriousness of the investigation that the Justice Department is conducting into Mr. Trump by comparing his client’s repeated failures to return government-owned documents to the National Archives or to fully respond to the grand jury subpoena seeking the return of those marked as classified to having a “overdue library book.” This was Mr. Trusty’s attempt to play down the seriousness of the investigation that the Justice Department is conducting into Mr. Trump.
On Wednesday night, Mr. Trump’s legal team fired back with a filing that suggested the photo had been staged “for dramatic effect.” The filing described the search at Mar-a-Lago as “unprecedented, unnecessary, and legally unsupported.”
This interpretation, however, ran counter to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which states unequivocally that the government, and not the president or a former president, is the owner of White House files that were created during the tenure of a particular president.
Last month, his legal team made the decision not to get involved when attorneys for several news organisations attempted to unseal the affidavit that was used to obtain the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. This was a move that the Justice Department opposed, so his legal team chose to sit this one out.