Court Battles

Judge gives Trump until Friday to clarify request for special master on records seized by FBI

A federal judge on Tuesday responded to former President Trump’s lawsuit requesting a special master to review the documents collected by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago residence, giving Trump a Friday deadline to clarify his request. 

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen Cannon issued an order for Trump to elaborate on how the court has jurisdiction and precisely what he wants the court to order in the case.

She also asked Trump’s team to provide more details on whether it served the Department of Justice (DOJ) with the suit and on the lawsuit’s effect on another proceeding determining if parts of the affidavit that supported the search warrant should be released.

The request was one of two brief orders filed on Tuesday by Cannon, who was nominated to the position by Trump in 2020. She also issued a separate one asking two of his attorneys to correctly format and resubmit their motions to appear pro hac vice, which allow lawyers to appear in courts in which they are not admitted for a particular case.

The former president filed the lawsuit on Monday to temporarily block the FBI from reviewing the documents it seized from his Florida home until the agency appoints a special master to provide outside oversight, marking Trump’s first major legal action since agents executed a search warrant at the property on Aug. 8.

A letter released by the National Archives on Tuesday said the DOJ seized at least 700 pages of classified materials when it first recovered documents from Trump’s Florida home in January. Authorities separately seized another 11 sets of classified documents earlier this month.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the FBI and the search as being politically motivated, and he has said the materials include those protected by attorney-client privilege and potentially executive privilege. 

He alluded to the forthcoming suit on Friday, claiming the FBI violated his Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures.

His attorneys outlined many of those concerns in Monday’s motion, asking the court to appoint a special master, who generally ensures a court’s orders are carried out. The appointment is typically rare in the context of the execution of a search warrant.

The request comes after the DOJ began its common practice of leveraging a “filter team” to examine the documents, which is designed to avoid prosecutors seeing protected materials.

Trump also asked the court to require the government to provide a more detailed property receipt, which lists the seized materials, and to return any documents outside the scope of the search warrant.

A federal judge signed off on the warrant days before the search took place, permitting agents to search the “45 Office,” all storage rooms and other areas at Mar-a-Lago available to be used by Trump and his staff in which boxes or documents could be stored.

The warrant allowed the agents to seize any property in those areas that constituted evidence of violations of the Espionage Act and two other statutes.

The laws included one statute that bars the concealment, removal and mutilation of government documents, and the other prohibits similar actions when done “with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence [an] investigation.” 

Tags Department of Justice Donald Trump FBI Mar-a-Lago Mar-a-lago fbi raid mar-a-lago search special master

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