Trump scores wins as judge strikes review obligations imposed by special master

In light of former President Donald Trump’s insinuations that the FBI may have “planted” documents during its Aug. 8 Mar-a-Lago raid, the Special Master appointed to review the seized materials ordered Trump to certify that the inventory list was complete and accurate within a matter of days — even as his attorneys are unable to actually view all of the documents on that inventory list.

That order was overruled by the federal judge overseeing the case, however, and removed that obligation that had been imposed on Trump’s team, The Western Journal reported.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon also ruled favorably for Trump by striking another obligation imposed by the Special Master that Trump’s attorneys provide specific details with regard to particular privilege claims as the seized materials review was still ongoing.

Special Master imposes certain obligations on Trump

On Sept. 22, the court-appointed Special Master, senior Judge Raymond Dearie, issued his Case Management Plan to govern the review that imposed various requirements on the two parties, Trump’s team and the Justice Department, and set deadlines by which those requirements must be met.

Dearie set a deadline of Sept. 30 for Trump’s team to submit an affidavit that would specify any items on the Detailed Property Inventory list that had not been seized in the Aug. 8 raid, any items that had been seized but were listed incorrectly, and any items that had been seized but were not listed on the inventory.

“This submission shall be plaintiff’s final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” the Special Master wrote.

In addition, Dearie also set a rolling weekly schedule for batches of seized materials to be reviewed and ordered Trump’s team to, “on a document-by-document basis,” designate any personal or privilege claims for each document along with a brief statement explaining each designation.

Judge Cannon alters the plan’s requirements for Trump

UPI reported that former President Trump’s attorneys objected to those requirements and Judge Cannon seemed to agree, as she struck or modified those requirements in an order that partially approved and partially rejected Judge Dearie’s proposed Case Management Plan.

In her Sept. 29 order, Cannon noted the Trump team’s objection to Dearie’s plans regarding the inventory list, and wrote, “There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant’s Inventory, its descriptions, or its contents. The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation.”

The judge also overruled Dearie’s requirement that Trump’s team submit and explain its claims of privilege amid the ongoing review and instead set a deadline of 21 days after the review was complete for Trump’s attorneys to submit “one comprehensive, annotated copy” of a spreadsheet outlining its various claims and designations on a “document-by-document basis.”

Wins for Trump

To be sure, former President Trump is not out of the woods yet in terms of his potential legal exposure once the Special Master review of the seized materials, not to mention the FBI investigation, has been completed, and it certainly remains possible that President Joe Biden’s DOJ could pursue criminal prosecution against his chief political rival.

That said, the actions of Judge Cannon to overrule and modify the rather stringent requirements imposed on Trump by Dearie constitute a victory, if only small and temporary at this time.