Federal judge Aileen Cannon has just handed President Trump a big legal victory in his dispute with the government over the allegedly classified records taken from Mar-A-Lago.
In effect, Cannon affirmed that the DOJ cannot use the material it seized from Trump’s home in its investigation until a special master has looked at it, CBS reported.
Judge appoints special master for Trump
The judge gave Raymond Dearie, a former New York judge, until November 30 to finish the outside review of the 11,000 or so seized documents.
The government says the batch includes 100 “classified” records, but Judge Cannon said she wasn’t going to accept the government’s characterization of any of the files at face value. She specifically denied a request from the DOJ to have control over those 100 files.
“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the Government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion,” Cannon wrote.
It hasn’t been determined that the records are “without exception” property of the government “not subject to any privileges,” she wrote. Cannon also once again shot down the government’s argument that a third-party review would impede an intelligence assessment of the seized material.
She pointedly deflated the government’s pearl-clutching about national security, noting that the DOJ has apparently leaked to the media some of the very information it says it wants to keep confidential — something that has angered President Trump.
Judge puts down guardrails
Cannon had previously dismissed the DOJ’s sweeping assertion that Trump, because he is no longer president, cannot invoke executive privilege.
In her latest order she again gave a nod to the “unprecedented” nature of the dispute, the value of a special master in bolstering “public trust,” and the possibility that privileged materials are among the items the government is claiming ownership over.
Her ruling, she said, would “avoid unwarranted use and disclosure of potentially privileged and/or personal materials” and ensure “at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances.”
She noted that her ruling doesn’t stop the government from proceeding with its probe in other ways or even bringing charges, but they can’t use the seized materials.
The decision will likely slow down the DOJ’s records investigation, which Trump has blasted as a ruthless partisan attack meant to stop him from running for president again.