U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has ruled in favor of one of former President Donald Trump’s special master picks, appointing Raymond Dearie to review the trove of documents seized by the FBI at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
The judge also denied the Department of Justice’s motion for a partial stay to allow DOJ continued access to the documents.
“The Court remains firmly of the view that appointment of a special master to conduct a review of the seized materials, accompanied by a temporary injunction to avoid unwarranted use and disclosure of potentially privileged and/or personal materials, is fully consonant with the foregoing principles and with the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances,” Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, writes.
Last month, Trump’s team asked that an independent third party be placed in charge of reviewing the 11,000 seized documents to ascertain whether any were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege when removed in the Aug. 8 search.
The Justice Department opposed the request, but when Judge Cannon ruled in favor of a special master, it agreed to Trump’s pick, Dearie, as an appropriate choice.
Judge Dearie is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and served as chief judge of the court from 2007 to 2011. He was appointed as a judge by Ronald Reagan in 1986.
He previously approved a warrant for the FBI to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page during the Russia investigation, though he is understood to have a stellar reputation and is highly regarded by Trump and his team.
Cannon gave the special master a Nov. 30 deadline to finish his review of the potentially privileged documents, which is more than a month after the DOJ’s request for an Oct. 17 deadline.
The Justice Department has indicated it will appeal, which could see the case taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.
In her ruling, Judge Cannon disagrees with the DOJ’s claims that the records it is attempting to review—in particular, 100 documents “marked as classified”—contain such sensitive information and requests further review from the special master.
Cannon denied the DOJ’s request to exempt the 100 documents from the review and to lift restrictions on DOJ from using the classified materials seized during the search to further its criminal investigation into the handling of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago.
She said she would not accept the DOJ’s brief that the documents remain classified as fact without a review from the special master.
“First, there has been no actual suggestion by the Government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from Plaintiff’s allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property,” Cannon wrote.
Trump has asserted publicly that he declassified all the records before the FBI search.
“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 writes, noting “there are documented instances giving rise to concerns about the Government’s ability to properly categorize and screen materials.”
Though Cannon directed the special master to “prioritize review of the approximately 100 documents marked as classified (and papers physically attached thereto), and thereafter consider prompt adjustments to the Court’s Orders as necessary.”
Cannon also ordered Trump to pay the full cost of the review, despite a plea from his lawyer’s to split the bill.
Dearie has already accepted the role in a signed filing.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.