On Monday, a federal court granted former Pres. Donald Trump’s request to name a special master to supervise the FBI’s examination of the documents collected during a search on Mar-a-Lago in August.
Following a meeting in court last week between the former president’s lawyers and a legal team from the Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted Trump’s request. Days after releasing a more thorough inventory of the items the FBI seized from Trump’s Florida estate, which has been his home since he left the White House in January 2021, Cannon made her judgment.
Trump’s home was raided by the FBI on August 8 in an unusual action that sparked a firestorm of debate about the bureau. Cannon claimed that the peculiar circumstances of the case had a role in her choice.
According to Cannon’s judgment, “Plaintiff’s Motion [ECF No. 1] is GRANTED IN PART pursuant to the Court’s inherent supervisory authority and equitable jurisdiction, and cognizant of the need to provide at least the appearance of justice and honesty under the unique circumstances presented.” The appointment of a special master to search the confiscated property for personal belongings, papers, and possibly privileged information susceptible to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege is approved by the court in this statement.
The FBI’s criminal probe into the information obtained from Trump is also temporarily halted by Cannon’s injunction.
The DOJ team argued against a special master last week in court, claiming that the FBI’s privilege assessment team had previously distinguished potentially protected information from official records. A special master appointment at such a late stage in the audit, according to the DOJ, would unnecessarily delay the bureau’s progress.
In order to safeguard Trump’s interests as the FBI evaluated confiscated papers, many of which have not been claimed to belong to the government, Trump’s team claimed that a special master was required. However, the documents and data that Trump’s legal team argues are shielded by executive privilege and attorney-client privilege are what they are most interested in.
On Thursday, Cannon said that she will reveal a more thorough inventory of the items seized in the Mar-a-Lago raid. The 8-page report, which was made public on Friday, gives a clearer picture of what the agents obtained from Mar-a-Lago, although it doesn’t go into detail about what many of the documents included.
The inventory list shows that agents took goods from Trump’s office and a storage space, including sensitive papers and data as well as more commonplace items like “clothing/gift” items, books, and newsprint.
For instance, two papers designated confidential, 15 documents marked secret, seven documents tagged top secret, and 69 additional documents or images without classification marks were found in a box of information confiscated from Trump’s office. The box also contained dozens of empty folders with the labels “CLASSIFIED” or “Return to Staff Secretary/Miliary Aide,” as well as 99 magazine or news items published between January 2017 and October 2018.