DOJ Appeals Decision to Appoint Special Master in Trump FBI Raid Document Case

Source: Department of Justice
  • The Department of Justice said it is appealing a federal judge's ruling to authorize a special master to review documents the FBI seized from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.
  • The move came three days after Judge Aileen Cannon approved Trump's request for an outside watchdog to sift through the seized materials.
  • The DOJ had opposed that request, saying it had already completed a privilege review of the documents.



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The Department of Justice on Thursday appealed a federal judge's ruling to authorize a special master to review documents that the FBI seized from the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump.

The Justice Department also asked Judge Aileen Cannon to pause her related order blocking the government from further reviewing documents marked classified that were found during last month's search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach resort home.

The moves came three days after Cannon approved Trump's request for a special master to sift through the seized materials to identify personal items and records that are protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

The DOJ had opposed that request, saying a team of agency officials had already completed a privilege review of the documents, and that a special master could harm the government's national security interests.

In another court filing Thursday, the DOJ asked Cannon to make public a notice on the status of that team's filter review process, which had been filed under seal on Aug. 30.

The "broad strokes" of the filter notice have already been made public, since the government had described the review team's process during a court hearing last week, the DOJ said in that filing. But Trump's lawyers object to the filter notice being unsealed, even though they have offered no redactions to the document and have not identified "any basis for asserting privilege," the DOJ said.

The FBI seized more than 10,000 government records when it raided Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. Many of those documents bore classification markings, including dozens of folders that were empty when they were collected by the FBI.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, wrote in her ruling Monday in U.S. District in Southern Florida that "the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness."

The DOJ's appeal was filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which holds appellate jurisdiction over cases from district courts in Florida.

The Justice Department also asked Cannon to stay her order that blocks the agency from further reviewing and using the seized documents with classification markings for criminal investigative purposes, pending the appeal. Last week, the department revealed that the FBI seized more than 100 classified documents during the raid.

The DOJ said in Thursday's filing that it is likely to succeed on its appeal as it applies to the classified records, which represent a fraction of the documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump "does not and could not assert that he owns or has any possessory interest in classified records; that he has any right to have those government records returned to him; or that he can advance any plausible claims of attorney-client privilege as to such records that would bar the government from reviewing or using them," the DOJ wrote.

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