Miami, Sep 5 (EFE).- A judge on Monday granted former US President Donald Trump’s request for the appointment of an arbiter to review the documents seized last month from his sprawling Mar-a-Lago private club and residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
The ruling by Aileen Cannon, a Trump-nominated federal judge in South Florida, states that the “special master” will review those records and determine if any are covered by attorney-client privilege (commonly available to any suspect) or even executive privilege, typically invoked to protect presidents’ power to withhold information from Congress and the courts.
That independent attorney also will be tasked with making recommendations and evaluating claims for the return of property.
Cannon is overseeing a lawsuit Trump filed against the Justice Department over the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, which took away nearly 11,000 documents, some of them marked as top secret.
Trump, whose attorneys had asked Cannon to appoint the special master, issued a statement after the judge’s ruling.
Without mentioning Cannon or the order to appoint an independent arbiter, the former president said the courts and the FBI “are being pushed to do the wrong things by many sinister and evil outside sources.”
“Until impartiality, wisdom, fairness, and courage are shown by them, our Country can never come back or recover,” Trump said. “It will be reduced to being a Third World Nation!”
Trump’s attorneys argued at a hearing last Thursday that the appointment of a special master was needed to “restore public confidence” in the US Department of Justice’s investigation into official documents the ex-president was keeping at Mar-a-Lago.
Lawyers for the ex-president said an independent review was necessary not only to weed out documents that may have been covered by attorney-client or executive privilege but also so the special master could review the inventory of everything the FBI removed from Trump’s residence.
Justice Department attorneys, for their part, had argued that the appointment of a special master was unnecessary and would merely delay the investigation.
During the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, the FBI found classified and secret documents that the former president took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.
The agents also discovered 90 folders marked “classified” or for return to the White House staff secretary or a military aide, according to an inventory of the search that was made public last week.
The judge’s ruling blocks the Justice Department from using the seized material in its investigation until the special master has had the chance to conduct his/her review or until a new court order has been handed down.
Nevertheless, it does not prevent intelligence officials from continuing a separate review of potential damage to national security Trump may have caused by removing sensitive documents to Mar-a-Lago. EFE