A federal judge in Florida on Monday granted former President Donald Trump’s motion to have a special master review the documents that were seized during the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, throwing a wrench into the Department of Justice’s investigation into Joe Biden’s chief political opponent.
Judge Aileen Cannon ruled that a special master may be appointed “to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney client and/or executive privilege,” the Daily Mail reported.
“Upon full consideration of the parties’ arguments and the exceptional circumstances presented, the Court deems the exercise of equitable jurisdiction over this action to be warranted,” Judge Cannon wrote.
Cannon reportedly enjoined the Justice Department from “reviewing and using the seized materials” pending the completion of the special master’s review.
The judge also told lawyers from both sides “to confer and submit a list of possible special master candidates, as well as a schedule for review and compensation,” according to the Daily Mail.
Trump’s team made its initial demand in a filing in federal court in Florida late last month, after Judge Bruce E. Reinhart ordered that a redacted version of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant affidavit be unsealed.
In a court filing opposing the appointment of a special master, the Biden DOJ alleged last week that former president Trump and his staff concealed and moved classified material in violation of a grand jury subpoena, and that the Department had no choice but to search the entire premises.
The filing included a now viral photo showing “top secret” documents strewn all over the floor.
The DOJ argued in the filing that Trump’s attempt to get back documents “owned by the U.S. government” was like a drug dealer pleading guilty to dealing cocaine, and then seeking the return of $140,000 seized during a raid.
Cannon slapped down the DOJ’s flawed analogy, writing: “Plaintiff has not pled guilty to any crimes; the Government has not clearly explained how Plaintiff’s hands are unclean with respect to the personal materials seized; and in any event, this is not a situation in which there is no room to doubt the immediately apparent incriminating nature of the seized material, as in the case of the sale of cocaine.”
The judge postponed ruling on Trump’s request for return of property taken during the raid, noting that Trump “may not be entitled to return of much of the seized property or to prevail on his anticipated claims of privilege.”
“That inquiry remains for another day,” Cannon wrote.
The FBI reportedly seized 33 boxes with over 100 classified records during the raid, although Trump and his team say he declassified everything before he moved them out of the White House.
The feds rifled through the living quarters of both Trump’s wife Melania, and his 16-year-old-son, Barron, during the August 8 raid, enraging the former president.
“[D]espite proven high crimes and treason, and just plain common theft, all pointed out in the Laptop from Hell (and elsewhere), they never Raided or Broke Into the house of Hunter Biden or, perhaps even more importantly, the house of Joe Biden – A treasure trove! This is a Country that’s unfair and broken. We are truly a Nation in Decline!!!” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday.
Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, agreed with the Biden DOJ that there had been no “callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional rights” in the search, which came after months of back-and-forth with Trump’s lawyers and following a subpoena for other documents.
Cannon however cited documents uncovered by a Privilege Review Team that indicated seized materials included “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information.”
She said the government acknowledged seizing some personal effects ‘without evidentiary value,’ with ‘upwards of 500 pages of material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.’
She cited a ‘Detailed Property Inventory’ where the government said agents seized ‘approximately 11,000 documents and 1,800 other items from the office and storage room’ at Mar-a-Lago.
Her ruling also cited the risk of government leaks.
‘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,’ she wrote.
The judge also showed a sensitivity to Trump’s reputation should he be indicted or even just based on the search of his home.
‘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. 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 wrote.
Cannon said her order should not impede a classification review or intelligence assessment.
The House Intelligence Committee last week requested a “damage assessment” about the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the committee that she is working on a review.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he believes the investigation is less about national security, and more about keeping Trump off the presidential ballot in 2020.
“Well it’s definitely politically motivated,” Steube said. “We had a politically motivated DOJ that for two years, it was Russia, Russia, Russia, and the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia.”
On Truth Social Monday, Trump warned that the United States will reduced to “Third World” status unless someone with “courage and guts” fights back against the politicized DOJ and FBI.
“Remember, it takes courage and “guts” to fight a totally corrupt Department of “Justice” and the FBI,” Trump wrote. “They are being pushed to do the wrong things by many sinister and evil outside sources. Until impartiality, wisdom, fairness, and courage are shown by them, our Country can never come back or recover—it will be reduced to being a Third World Nation!”
Trump also slammed the FBI raid during a massive rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on Saturday, telling the crowd that the search was a “travesty of justice” and warning that it could produce “a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen.”
“There can be no more vivid example of the very real threats from American freedom than just a few weeks ago, you saw, when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history,” Trump said.
A telling video comparing the size of the crowds at Trump’s and Biden’s rallies this week in Wilkes-Barre, had attracted 3.2 million views on Twitter as of Monday afternoon.
TUNE IN https://t.co/IvLtagZ3oH
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) September 5, 2022
Mohegan Sun arena in Wilkes-Barre was at its maximum (10,000) capacity when Trump spoke on Saturday, and thousands more reportedly watched outside the venue. Joe Biden spoke to a small audience in a high school gymnasium in the same city on Tuesday to promote his $37 billion Safer America Plan.