Judge can grant Trump’s request for a special master to review documents the FBI took

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A federal judge indicated on Saturday that she was willing to grant former President Donald Trump’s request for an independent “special master” to examine boxes of classified documents and other documents taken by federal authorities from her Florida resort nearly three weeks ago.

In a brief two-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon gave the government until Tuesday to present its case on the matter while scheduling a court hearing Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump’s legal team had filed the application Monday, asking the court to appoint an outside expert on the matter, calling the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home politically motivated, overbroad and “scandalously aggressive.” Lawyers for the former president claimed that federal authorities seized documents to which they had no legal right.

Although the judge, who was appointed to her post by Trump in 2020, seems inclined to appoint a special master, she said her order “should not be construed as a final decision on the plaintiff’s motion.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal authorities took about two dozen boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago during the search, including 11 sets of classified documents, including several classified as top secret. Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, told congressional lawmakers On Friday, US intelligence analysts will conduct a national security assessment and document classification review.

After Trump filed his initial request, Cannon asked him and his attorneys to clarify what they were asking the court in their 27-page filing and to answer jurisdictional questions.

In its decision on Saturday, Cannon asked the Justice Department to submit under seal a more detailed list of the documents the FBI had taken. She also asked for an update on the federal government’s review.

Trump’s lawyers want a special master to turn over any information taken from Trump’s property that went beyond the scope of the search warrant, and to set aside any material that should be shielded from government scrutiny in because of executive privilege.

In the past, special masters have generally been appointed in attorney-client privilege cases, not executive privilege. In addition, the FBI has had the files since August 8 and is reviewing them. Many documents require the highest levels of security clearance to view, so any special master may need those clearances to review them.

What’s in Mar-a-Lago’s Partially Redacted Affidavit

According to a partially redacted affidavit unsealed Friday, officers conducting the search were looking for all “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime or other unlawfully possessed items in violation of three potential crimes”, including part of the law on espionage prohibiting the collection, transmission or loss of national defense information. The warrant also cites the destruction of records and the concealment or mutilation of government material.

The search is part of a criminal investigation into whether Trump and his aides took secret government documents and failed to return them all, despite requests from senior officials.

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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