A federal judge granted former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint an independent expert to review materials the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago last month.
The decision by Judge Aileen Cannon, whom Trump appointed, represents a significant victory for the former president in this case. And it means that an outside lawyer, who does not belong to the government, will review the materials that were seized from Trump’s residence and resort in Florida.
“Based on Plaintiff’s prior position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the seizure in question is in a league of its own,” Cannon wrote. “Future indictment, based on whatever degree the property should be returned, would result in reputational damage of a decidedly different magnitude,” she added.
Judge Cannon’s order also prevents Justice Department criminal investigators from continuing to review the materials that were seized at Mar-a-Lago. This pending “the review of the independent expert or an additional court order.”
However, it “will not preclude classification review and/or intelligence assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” the court decision added, referring to damage assessments conducted by US intelligence agencies. USA
Trump’s lawyers argued that an independent expert was needed because they don’t trust the Justice Department to fairly identify privileged materials that should be excluded from the ongoing criminal investigation.
Now, federal prosecutors are likely to appeal this decision. The Justice Department strongly opposed an independent expert, noting that its own “filter team” has already finished reviewing the Mar-a-Lago documents and found a small set of confidential records protected under attorney-client privilege. .
The two parties have until this Friday to propose a candidate for independent expert and their specific tasks.
The judge noted that the special master will have the task of reviewing “seized property of personal items and documents and material potentially subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.”
FBI obtained medical and tax information from Trump, judge says
The Justice Department obtained “tax-related correspondence” and medical documents during the Mar-a-Lago search, according to the privilege review team’s report, which remains sealed but details of which Cannon provided Monday.
Cannon noted that Justice Department attorneys acknowledged seizing some “personal effects of no evidentiary value,” as well as 500 pages of material potentially subject to attorney-client privilege.
The judge wrote that Trump’s “individual interest and need for seized property” were one of the reasons for ruling in favor of the former president’s request for an independent expert.
Cannon also said the privilege review team’s report described “at least two instances in which members of the investigative team were exposed to material that was later turned over to the privilege review team.”
“Those cases alone, even if completely unintentional, raise questions about the adequacy of the filter,” he said.