Will a special master slow down the Trump investigation?

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A federal judge may have given Donald Trump some breathing room as he avoids an investigation into his handling of classified documents after the presidency. Judge Eileen Cannon — a Trump appointee — on Monday said an expert should review of documents seized last month from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI. Cannon also ordered the Justice Department not to use the seized documents for investigative purposes until the special master’s work is complete.

This could slow down research, but could have wider implications. “Her decision appeared to create a special exception to normal legal process for the former president and rejects the Justice Department’s implicit argument that Mr. Trump is being treated like any other subject of investigation.” The New York Times References. Why did Cannon agree with the special gentleman? What does it mean for Trump? Here’s everything you need to know:

Why was a special master appointed?

Part of the point is that the FBI didn’t just seizure of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago; Agents took “medical records, tax correspondence and accounting information,” reports CBS News, as well as “500 pages of material that may be subject to attorney-client privilege.” It is not uncommon for such items to be excluded from review if they are not directly relevant to the investigation in question.

But — as with all things Trump — there’s a catch: Cannon also said the master must review the seized materials to determine whether they’re covered by executive privilege. Why is this remarkable? Trump is no longer executive. (This meme illustrates the conundrum.But the judge said the Supreme Court “has not settled the issue of whether a former president could claim executive privilege against the administration of a sitting president.” The Washington Post notes.

What does an expert master really do?

The master is a “third-party, non-government attorney” who will be “brought in to review materials taken from Trump’s Florida home and resort,” CNN reports. (This process is separate from the Office of National Intelligence’s review of potential national security implications.) Basically, they’ll go through the stuff the agents seized and decide whether any of it is off-limits for government scrutiny — because it is privileged or, in the case of medical records, both irrelevant and personal information.

Why is the judge’s order so controversial?

We have already mentioned the “executive privilege” controversy. But there are at least three other reasons:

  • Again, she’s a Trump appointee. “Cannon has a reputation as a far-right jurist and Trump-appointed member of the Feds,” writes commentator Steve Benen for MSNBC. While “federal judges routinely handle matters involving the president who put them on the bench,” CNN points out, it’s also true that “Trump has a history of politicizing the judiciary … and openly says he expects his appointees to do what’s legal of. invitation.” For some observers, this combination of circumstances has raised red flags.

  • He suggested Trump might have special status as a former president. “In light of plaintiff’s past position as president of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject matter seizure is self-serving,” Cannon wrote in her order. “A future indictment, based in any degree on assets that should be returned, would result in reputational damage of a distinctly different order of magnitude.” Thus, the special gentleman. Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a professor at Harvard Law School, said he found that logic “deeply problematic.” He said The New York Times: “This court gives special considerations to the former president that ordinary, everyday citizens don’t get.”

  • It’s not clear that it can actually bar the Justice Department from using the material for investigative purposes. “In my opinion, this is one of the strangest parts of Judge Cannon’s order.” law professor Orrin Kerr wrote Monday in a Twitter thread. That order “is tantamount to a judicial takeover of executive branch investigation. I don’t see how a federal judge has the power to do that.”

How will the Justice Department investigation be affected?

It won’t speed things up, that’s for sure. “Cannon’s suggestion that the Supreme Court may have to rule on the issue points to the potential for significant delay in the case,” notes Zoe Tillman in Bloomberg. Both sides have until Sept. 9 — this Friday — to submit candidates for the special primary. What’s unknown: How long the review will take. It can be a complicated process: After the master finishes sifting through the documents, he “typically submits a report to the judge with recommendations … and the parties could then have an opportunity to weigh in before the judge rules.”

The Justice Department may appeal Cannon’s decision. Or maybe not. Speed ​​would be an important factor in any case. “It may seem quicker to simply … proceed with the appointment of a special master,” write Norman L. Eisen and Fred Wertheimer in Shale. Again: “Nobody knows how long this revision will take.” The longer the wait, the greater the pressure — the 2024 presidential campaign cycle will begin when this year’s midterm elections are over, and Trump is a good bet to run again. Time is running out on the Justice Department investigation.

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