U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump in 2020, Saturday signaled she has a “preliminary intent” to agree to his request to appoint a special master to oversee the FBI’s review of evidence and materials seized on Aug. 8 at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Cannon, in an order issued on Saturday, ordered responses by Trump and the Department of Justice to be filed before the hearing, scheduled for Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Paul G. Rogers U.S. Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The DOJ must respond to Trump’s demand by Tuesday for the master, or a third-party attorney who would be responsible for filtering out privileged material that may have been seized in the search. A special master is often a former judge.
Trump’s deadline to reply to the response from the DOJ is due on Wednesday.
Cannon also ordered the Department of Justice to file its response publicly to Trump’s demand for the special master while filing other another response, which would be under seal, that would go into detail about what the FBI seized during its search, including a “particularized notice indicating the status of Defendant’s review of the seized property, including any filter review conducted by the privilege review team and any dissemination of materials beyond the privilege review team.
She concluded the order by saying that it should not be construed as her final decision in the matter.
Friday, Trump’s attorneys, responding to a request from Cannon for further information concerning the appointment of a special master, pointed to further legal case law discussion to support his case.
The response came hours after the DOJ released a heavily redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the warrant used by the FBI in its search of Trump’s estate, leading him to claim that the document raised “more questions than answers.”
“It provides almost no information that would allow Movant to understand why the raid took place, or what was taken from his home,” the filing said.
It’s a rare move to appoint a special master to oversee the handling of evidence that has been seized in federal criminal investigations, reports Politico.
However, this usually happens when records are seized from an attorney’s office, and the move has been used recently in Manhattan during probes into Trump attorneys Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani.
The special master appointment, if it happens, is unlikely to significantly affect the direction of the Justice Department investigation, though it’s possible an outside review of the documents could slow the probe down.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.