Mar-A-Lago Probe: Veteran judge named arbiter in Trump case

By Eric Tucker | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> A federal judge on Thursday appointed a veteran New York jurist to serve as an independent arbiter and review records seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month.

In her order, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon refused a Justice Department request to lift her temporary prohibition on the department’s use of the roughly 100 classified records that were taken during the Aug. 8 search. She also granted the newly named special master, Raymond Dearie, access to the entire tranche of documents seized from the property even though the department had said the arbiter shouldn’t be permitted to inspect the batch of classified records.

Raymond Dearie

The Justice Department is expected to contest the judge’s order to a federal appeals court. It had given Cannon until Thursday to put on hold her order barring the continued review of classified records, and said it would ask the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene if she did not do so then.

A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately return a message.

The selection of Dearie, a former federal prosecutor who for years served as the chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, came after both the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers made clear that they would be satisfied with his appointment as a so-called special master.

In that role, Dearie will be responsible for reviewing the documents taken during the search of Mar-a-Lago and segregating out any that may be covered by claims of privilege. It is not clear how long the work will take but the special master process has already delayed the investigation, with Cannon directing the Justice Department to temporarily pause core aspects of its probe.

The Justice Department is investigating the hoarding of top-secret materials and other classified documents at the Florida property after Trump left office. The FBI says it recovered more than 11,000 documents from the home during its search, including roughly100 with classification markings.

Trump’s lawyers had asked last month for a judge to name a special master to do an independent review of the records and segregate any that may be covered by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department argued the appointment was unnecessary, saying it had already done its own review and Trump had no right to raise executive privilege claims that ordinarily permit the president to withhold certain information.

Cannon, a Trump appointee, disagreed and directed both sides to name potential candidates for the role. She also ordered the Justice Department to halt its review of the documents for investigative purposes until “further Court order” or until the special master completes their review.

The Trump team recommended either Dearie or a Florida lawyer for the job. The Justice Department said that, in addition to the two retired judges whose names it submitted, it would also be satisfied with a Dearie appointment.

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