(Headline USA) A federal judge in Florida told the Justice Department on Saturday to provide her with more specific information about the classified records removed from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate and said it was her “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master in the case.
The two-page order from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon signals that she’s inclined to grant a request from Trump’s lawyers, who this week asked for the appointment of an independent special master to oversee the review the records taken from Mar-a-Lago and identify any that may be protected by executive privilege, and to ensure the return of any documents outside the scope of the search warrant.
The judge scheduled a Thursday hearing to discuss the matter further, suggesting the Justice Department will have a chance to raise objections to the judge’s intentions. In other recent high-profile cases in which a special master has been appointed, the person has been a former judge.
Cannon also directed the Justice Department to file under seal with her more detailed descriptions of the material taken from Trump’s estate “specifying all property seized.”
The former president’s lawyers have complained that investigators did not disclose enough information to them about what specific documents were removed when agents executed a search warrant on Aug. 8 to look for classified documents.
The special master appointment, if it happens, is unlikely to significantly affect the direction of the Justice Department investigation, though it’s possible an outside review of the documents could slow the probe down.
Timing may prove crucial as the Justice Department seeks to conclude its work before the possible takeover of a Republican congress next term that will proceed to hold the investigators themselves accountable, with some discussion having arisen of impeaching Attorney General Merrick Garland, and defunding or decentralizing the FBI as part of a much-needed reform package.
Many have come to regard the raid as politically motivated, however, and if the independent review determines that the FBI significantly overstepped the parameters of its affidavit in stealing material unrelated to its case, that could prove to be another notch against the beleaguered agency’s credibility.
It is widely speculated that the politicized Justice Department under Garland may intend to be a backup for the failed Jan. 6 committee hearings, which did nothing to shift public opinion despite spending considerable public funds on a prime-time television production.
Already, the DOJ appears to have been selectively leaking information to outlets like the Washington Post to falsely plant the narrative that it was pursuing nuclear secrets.
The best evidence available (in spite of the heavy redactions on an affidavit released Friday) points to the likelihood that the FBI may have been seeing to recover materials related to its own role in the Russia-collusion hoax that it previously used in an effort to hobble the Trump presidency.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press