(CNN) — A federal judge in Florida gave former President Donald Trump until Friday to perfect legal arguments in his request for a “special teacher,” an expert witness, to oversee the review of evidence collected in the Mar-a-Lago raid. .
District Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida directed Trump’s attorneys to make their case for why the court has the ability to intervene at this time, to explain what exactly Trump is asking for and whether the Department of Justice has been notified with Trump’s “special master” motion.
Cannon also asked the Trump team to weigh in on any effect the request might have on a separate review by a magistrate judge of whether any part of the still-sealed FBI affidavit establishing probable cause for the record, may be disclosed.
The judge’s order shows many of the ways in which Trump’s complaint fell short of what would have been expected from a court filing calling for the appointment of a “special master,” particularly in a search of as high risk as the one the FBI ran at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
“What he’s saying is, ‘What are you doing in front of me?’ Mark Schnapp, a Florida criminal attorney who worked for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for seven years, told CNN.
In general, it is not out of the law for Trump to want a “special master” involved in reviewing evidence seized from his Florida residence. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, successfully applied for the appointment of a “special master” when the FBI searched his office and residences in 2018.
But Trump waited two weeks to make that request, raising suspicions given how far along the Justice Department is likely to be in reviewing what it seized at Mar-a-Lago. (For the review, the Justice Department is using what is known as a “taint team,” which is a group of prosecutors who are not working on the investigation in question and who filter materials that should not be released to investigators.)
And when Trump filed his request in court, the complaint leaned heavily toward political accusations while light on the kind of legal argument that would explain to a court why he should intervene and what authority he would have to do so. When Trump’s lawyers cited court rules they said gave the judge the authority to grant the request, they cited civil procedure rules, without any explanation as to why those rules should apply in a search warrant context. penal.
Trump also did not file a separate request for a motion for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction with the lawsuit, which would have expedited the time for the judge to consider Trump’s request.
Trump’s legal team also did not produce any statements from attorneys who are said to have interacted with the Justice Department in the lead up to and after the search to support the claims in the lawsuit.
Instead, the complaint repeats claims about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, while sensationally suggesting that the Justice Department’s actions were motivated by a desire to hinder the nomination of Trump for president in 2024. It also included the full text of a warning that Trump allegedly tried to deliver through his lawyers to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Schnapp said Trump’s presentation on Monday read more like a political message than a legal document.
“They didn’t really ask for anything. That’s the crazy thing,” Schnapp said. “They didn’t ask for anything to be done in the immediate future to stop it, even though that’s what they said they were doing.”
Trump’s move to file a separate case that was assigned to Judge Cannon, rather than filing with the magistrate judge who signed the order, also caused confusion among outside legal experts.
It appears that Trump’s attorneys even ran into procedural issues with the filing of the lawsuit and with their attempts to get into court appearances in the case.
The clerk posted a notice in the docket stating that the lawsuit had been “conventionally filed” when it “should have been filed electronically,” according to local court rules.
Another notice from the clerk stated that Trump’s attorneys seeking special admission to appear in the case because they were not licensed in Florida and also failed to meet local requirements in doing so, but were given another opportunity to properly appear.