Trump and DOJ nominate four special nominees to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago

WASHINGTON – Lawyers for Donald Trump and the Justice Department have been unable to agree on the appointment of a special master to independently review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, putting forward four possible candidates to review potentially privileged records recovered by federal investigators.

Among the two administration nominees is Barbara Jones, a former federal judge in Manhattan who has served in similar special roles in the federal investigations of former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen.

Federal prosecutors also subpoenaed Thomas Griffith, a retired federal appeals judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, nominated Raymond J. Dearie, the former chief federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, who also served on the secret foreign intelligence surveillance court. and Paul Huck, Jr., former deputy attorney general in Florida.

The two sides also found little common ground in describing the proposed ground rules for the special master’s work.

Justice officials have said that any independent arbitrator should not have access to the 100 classified documents seized in the Aug. 8 search, while Trump’s lawyers have argued that the appointed master should be able to review all material recovered from government, a cache of more than 11,000 documents.

The parties’ differences also extended to the duration of the proposed special master review. The administration has asked for the analysis to be completed by Oct. 17, while the Trump team has said the review will likely take 90 days.

The government had opposed the appointment of a special master because federal officials had already reviewed the thousands of seized documents and separated those that should be protected from investigators.

The classified documents, which included dozens of “classified” and “top secret” files along with empty file folders marked “classified,” were kept haphazardly in a warehouse and in Trump’s office. Classified documents were mixed in with thousands of unclassified files, images and even clothing. The department returned three of Trump’s passports seized during the Aug. 8 search.

This image contained in an Aug. 30, 2022, court filing by the Department of Justice, and redacted in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 FBI investigation of former President Donald Trump Mar- a-Lago estate in Florida. The Justice Department said it has uncovered efforts to obstruct its investigation into the discovery of classified records at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

But U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon authorized the special master on Monday, ruling that the documents must be reviewed to exclude personal items and records that might be subject to attorney-client or executor privilege. Cannon also ordered the Justice Department to halt its investigation into the documents until the special review is complete.

Federal officials are appealing the ruling and have asked Cannon to lift a ban on reviewing classified documents as part of the investigation, pending an appeal.

Federal reviewers found 520 pages of documents that may contain attorney-client communications. But Justice lawyers argued that Trump has no claim to executive privilege to keep communications from his administration aides confidential because he is no longer president and the documents were seized within the executive branch. But Cannon said the Supreme Court had not ruled out a possible claim of executive privilege.

More: Trump’s relentless attacks on the Mar-a-Lago quest lack context. What did he say against those we know.

The challenge for Cannon is to find a candidate aligned with Trump and the department, who has a security clearance high enough to review the documents and who is also an expert on attorney-client and executive privilege.

US Judge Bruce Reinhart authorized an FBI investigation into evidence of possible Espionage Act violations for mishandling documents involving national defense or obstruction of justice.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump, DOJ nominate 4 special nominees to review records

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