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Judge appoints special master to handle documents from Mar-a-Lago, dismissing DOJ appeal

BREAKING: Florida judge gives win to Trump and appoints special master to handle documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, dismissing Department of Justice request to start reviewing classified files

  • Judge Aileen Cannon released her decision on Thursday evening
  • She rejected a government appeal and appointed a ‘special master’
  • Raymond Dearie, a federal judge, will now review the Mar-a-Lago documents 

A Florida judge on Thursday dismissed a Justice Department appeal, blocking it from resuming its review of classified records seized by the FBI from Donald Trump‘s Florida estate.

Instead federal judge Aileen Cannon sided with the former president by appointing Senior District Judge Raymond Dearie as a ‘special master’ to review records seized by the FBI.

Trump’s lawyers last month asked that a third party be put in charge of reviewing the documents to weed out any that were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

Trump is at the center of a legal battle over thousands of government documents found by FBI agents at his Mar-a-Lago home. Not only are official files supposed to be handed to the national archives, but many bore ‘classified’ markings. 

The Justice Department said a third-party review was unnecessary in this case. But when the court ruled that it would appoint a ‘special master’ government lawyers said they would accept Dearie, the former chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, in the role.

However, they lodged an appeal asking that 100 documents marked ‘classified’ be exempted from the review.

It argued that if the documents were classified then it was nonsensical to suggest the government had no right to see them. 

A Florida judge appointed Raymond J. Dearie, the former top federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, Thursday as ‘special master’ to review files seized from Mar-a-Lago

The FBI recovered hundreds of documents from Donald Trump's Florida home last month

The FBI recovered hundreds of documents from Donald Trump’s Florida home last month

An FBI photograph of the search released revealed how some of the documents were clearly marked classified - but sparked allegations of a smear against Trump

An FBI photograph of the search released revealed how some of the documents were clearly marked classified – but sparked allegations of a smear against Trump

‘Plaintiff does not and could not assert that he owns or has any possessory interest in classified records; that he has any right to have those government records returned to him; or that he can advance any plausible claims of attorney-client privilege as to such records that would bar the government from reviewing or using them,’ it said in its appeal.

In making her decision, Cannon said it was a matter of dispute whether the files were in fact classified.

‘In many respects, the government’s position thus presupposes the content, designation, and associated interests in materials under its control—yet, as the parties’ competing filings reveal, there are disputes as to the proper designation of the seized materials, the legal implications flowing from those designations, and the intersecting bodies of law permeating those designations,’ she wrote.

The result is that she pressed ahead with appointing Dearie, who has extensive experience in handling cases involving sensitive intelligence. 

He was the top prosecutor in Brookyln, New York, before being appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan in 1986.

His docket included high-profile terrorism cases – including some from overseas.

He has also  served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes Justice Department wiretap applications for investigations into suspected foreign agents. 

Trump has repeatedly claimed to be the victim of a witch hunt and that he declassified the documents when he took them home. But he still has not explained why he wanted to take official documents out of the White House

Trump has repeatedly claimed to be the victim of a witch hunt and that he declassified the documents when he took them home. But he still has not explained why he wanted to take official documents out of the White House

For his part, Trump has denied any wrongdoing and insists he is the victim of a political conspiracy to knock him out of he 2024 election.

He told radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Department of Justice had no justification for its actions.

‘There is no reason that they can be other than if they are just sick and deranged, which is always possible, because I did absolutely – you see the legal papers – absolutely nothing wrong,’ he said. 

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