Judge delays decision on special master review of materials seized in Mar-a-Lago raid

In the ongoing legal wrangling over the August FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that the parties would have to wait a little longer for a decision on whether she will appoint a “special master” to review documents taken from the property, as Fox News reports.

As the outlet noted, Judge Aileen M. Cannon stated that she plans to issue a written opinion on the matter – including the Justice Department’s objections to such an appointment – “in due course.”

Safeguards sought

In late August, Trump formally sought the appointment of a third-party special master to review materials seized in the Mar-a-Lago search for information covered by privilege of one form or another, as Politico reported at the time.

“This matter has captured the attention of the American public. Merely adequate safeguards are not acceptable when the matter at hand involves not only the constitutional rights of President Trump, but also the preservation of executive privilege,” the former president’s motion asserted.

That filing came after lawyers for Trump reportedly learned from a prosecutor that a so-called “filter team” from the Justice Department had been tapped to review all materials seized in the raid to remove anything thought to be privileged, a move the former president’s attorneys declared insufficient.

In response to the motion, the Department of Justice officially objected to the appointment of a special master, declaring it unnecessary and likely to result in undue delays in the probe of Trump’s handling of government documents.

“What is the harm?”

Though Cannon held off in issuing a final determination on the controversy on Thursday, she did appear to signal an openness to granting Trump’s wish, delving deeper into the Justice Department’s claims that such an appointment would be unwise.

“What is the harm of appointing a special master. What is your articulation of the harm other than the general concern that it would delay a criminal investigation,” Cannon asked, according to Fox News.

Cannon also suggested that perhaps the director of national intelligence could conduct a review of the contested documents while any criminal probe of Trump could be placed on hold as a special master surveyed them as well.

Decision delayed

Even before Thursday’s hearing, Cannon indicated that her “preliminary intent” was to order the appointment of a special master, as the Associated Press noted, though it still remains to be seen whether and when that might occur.

As Fox News explained, even if Cannon’s expected written decision in the matter does result in such an appointment, any subsequent review would likely be delayed by the process of choosing from a list of proposed candidates compiled by the respective parties.

Reacting to news of the non-decision in court on Thursday, former Trump administration Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker suggested that the result was a positive one nevertheless, saying, “…I’m worried that the DOJ is really moving very quickly with this case. We have an election coming up in 2022. And, you know, I think Judge Cannon is very smart to pump the brakes here on everything,” but just how long the nation will be held in suspense on the issue, only time will tell.

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