Anti-Trump legal experts cry foul over Trump victory in ruling to appoint special master, halt FBI probe of seized materials

In the aftermath of the Aug. 8 FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, it was alleged that agents seized more materials than were authorized by the scope of the search warrant, which prompted former President Donald Trump and his attorneys to file a lawsuit and request an independent third-party review of everything that had been taken by investigators.

On Monday, Trump scored a two-for-one victory in that a federal judge not only approved his request for a “special master” to impartially review the seized materials but also ordered a halt for the time being of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the materials that were seized from Trump’s Florida residence, The Hill reported.

That ruling quite predictably spurred furious recriminations against the judge from the anti-Trump legal establishment who lament to see any sort of victory, even if only temporary, for the former president that they so overtly love to hate.

FBI probe halted pending special master review

“It throws a significant wrench in the government’s investigation. In fact, it shuts it down for the moment until further notice,” former federal prosecutor and congressional investigator Jeff Robbins told The Hill of the ruling. “And we’re in a ‘Mother may I?’ pose, where the government can’t do anything with the evidence that it’s seized until it’s blessed to do so, expressly authorized to do so, by this judge, which means that the investigation is essentially held hostage at the moment.”

“One doesn’t know how long the Department of Justice will be crippled, but for the moment it is crippled,” he added. “If they do anything, directly or indirectly, with the evidence that they seized on Aug. 8, they run the very serious risk that a judge, perhaps this judge, will find that all of the evidence is inadmissible and has been tainted, as lawyers like to say, as fruit of a poisonous tree.”

What Robbins referenced was the fact that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, in her 24-page order, denoted that the FBI’s own internal review teams had already made mistakes and allowed investigators to view items that likely never should have been seized in the first place, such as materials protected by the attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, or items of a personal nature that quite obviously were not classified documents or presidential records.

Given those admitted mistakes by the so-called “filter” team, Cannon was inclined to appoint a special master — to be chosen from a jointly filed list of candidates — and to order a temporary halt to the FBI’s probe, at least with regard to the seized materials, until the eventual special master had completed their independent review.

That could mean weeks or even months of delay, if not even longer if the government seeks to appeal the ruling, and though Trump may still ultimately lose the battle in the long run, his temporary victory at the moment is too much to bear for some of his haters.

A “deeply flawed” and “unworkable mess”

That has led to broadside attacks against Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee, according to NBC News, as her ruling was decried as “deeply flawed” and an “unworkable mess” by some anti-Trump legal experts.

The “unworkable mess” denunciation pertains to Cannon’s decision to halt the FBI’s investigation of the seized materials while continuing to allow an ongoing review of those same materials by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — which happens to include the FBI with all of the other alphabet agencies dedicated to intelligence and national security matters.

According to former federal prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, who worked on the anti-Trump Mueller probe, the FBI and ODNI reviews are intertwined and “can’t be bifurcated,” as “the criminal investigation is informing the intelligence investigation.”

It was former Attorney General Bill Barr, however, who has now clearly sided against his former boss and told NBC, “The opinion, I think, was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it. It’s deeply flawed in a number of ways,” though he added that it would likely only cause a brief delay and wouldn’t “fundamentally” change the “trajectory” of the investigation.