A federal judge in Brooklyn was selected as an independent arbitrator on Thursday to review material seized by the FBI during a search of the Florida home of former President Donald Trump.
The special master will be Senior Justice Raymond Dearie, who has been raised as a possible candidate for the special master role by Trump, who has sued the court for scrutiny. The Justice Department also approved Dirie’s appointment.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon also rejected the Justice Department’s request to resume a criminal investigation into classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago last month. The denial sets the stage for the department’s dispute with Trump over seeking a swift transfer to an appeals court or even the U.S. Supreme Court.
The intelligence community’s review of the documents has been suspended since Cannon ordered a temporary halt to the criminal investigation last week. The Justice Department said the two reviews cannot be separated and plans to appeal.
The government denies The request, the latest example of Trump’s 2020 nomination of Cannon, has expressed extreme skepticism about the Justice Department’s handling of records it says should be in the government’s hands because they have them.
Cannon gave the special guru a Nov. 30 deadline to complete his review of potential privilege documents.
Timetable delays end of review until After the congressional midterm elections – essentially guaranteeing that the Mar-a-Lago investigation will slowly move forward over the next two months, unless a higher court steps in. The appeals process could mean the fight over documents will continue into the 2024 presidential election cycle.
Dearie is a judge on the Eastern District Court of Brooklyn, where he was awarded a senior position — meaning his workload eased considerably as his tenure as a federal judge came to an end.
He was appointed a judge by Ronald Reagan in 1986, and for a time served as chief justice of the Brooklyn District Court. He also served on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a seven-year term that ended in 2019.
As a FISA judge, Dearie was one of the judges who approved the Justice Department’s request to oversee Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, as part of a federal probe into Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
A U.S. Department of Justice inspector general review later found that the DOJ’s process of obtaining FISA authorization for Page was fraught with errors and hasty. The IG’s review pointed to omissions and errors in the FBI’s court documents supporting the FISA application, including those filed with Dearie.
Trump slammed Exceed How FISA’s license to Page was obtained makes it noteworthy for him to suggest Dearie review the Mar-a-Lago search. Legal observers in the ideological sphere, including Trump’s outspoken critics, also support the option.
Cannon also denied several other requests from the Justice Department on Thursday about how to conduct a special primary review. She dismissed the Justice Department’s argument that suspending criminal investigations of classified documents would pose a national security risk — a departure from how judges typically view such claims from the government.
However, she also appears to have created a vague and undefined loophole for the Justice Department to take steps in criminal investigations if they were necessary and inseparable from the intelligence community’s assessment of the national security risks surrounding document disclosures.
That possible wiggle room aside, her order — if the higher courts remain unchanged — would slow the criminal investigation by at least a few weeks.
In her ruling, Cannon said she did not believe the suspension of the criminal investigation’s review of documents would cause irreparable harm.
The department argues that the intelligence community’s assessment of national security risks — which Cannon has previously said may continue — is hampered by her hold on the use of documents in criminal investigations.
“First, the government has not raised any identifiable urgency or imminent disclosure of confidential information arising from the plaintiff’s alleged unlawful retention of seized property. Instead, the unwarranted disclosures that have emerged in the background following the potential seizure have unfortunately been leaked to the media,” she wrote.
She also dismissed the department’s argument that intelligence community assessments cannot be decoupled from criminal investigations.
Cannon said that while it might be “easier” for “the government’s criminal investigations to be synchronized with security assessments,” the Justice Department didn’t convince her that the intelligence community’s assessments were hampered.
Pointing to examples of how prosecutors’ national security assessments would rely on criminal investigation efforts, Cannon said prosecutors “are not firmly convinced that the processes described are inseparable, but rely heavily on hypothetical scenarios and generalized interpretations that Don’t create irreparable damage.”
Still, while she rejected the Justice Department’s assertion that the two reviews were inseparable, she appeared to acknowledge that in some cases the intelligence community’s assessments may rely on investigative activity taking place in criminal investigations, and she seemed vaguely Let the Justice Department wiggle the space to take these steps.
“If the security assessment is indeed integral to the criminal investigative use of the seized material, the court’s express order does not prohibit the government from taking the necessary security assessment action,” Cannon wrote.
She did not say what kind of criminal investigative activity would be acceptable for that purpose, saying only in a footnote that she believed the government would decide when the tasks of intelligence review and criminal investigation were truly “inseparable”.
Cannon rejected the DOJ’s request to end the special primary view by mid-October, setting a Nov. 30 deadline for the process — putting it closer to the 90-day timeline Trump’s team has proposed for a review .
Cannon also allows Trump’s lawyers to review documents marked classified in a highly controlled environment. The Justice Department wants the documents to be completely excluded from the special main proceeding. In another rejection to the Justice Department, the judge also directed the special director to review all seized documents.
However, the judge sided with the Justice Department on how to compensate the special host, ordering Trump to pay the costs, rather than a 50-50 cost-split with the Justice Department, as Trump has proposed.
Trump filed a lawsuit seeking the special guru, two weeks after the Justice Department searched his Florida home and resort. Prosecutors are investigating at least three potential crimes: violations of the Espionage Act, illegal handling of government records and obstruction of justice.
During the search, investigators seized more than 100 documents marked classified after Trump’s representatives received subpoenas in May asking them to return all such documents to the government, according to court documents. . When the FBI went to Mar-a-Lago to collect documents in June, one of his lawyers signed a certificate claiming that the subpoena had been complied with.
Trump argued in his special master case document that his constitutional rights were trampled on in the Aug. 8 search, though Cannon herself has previously said she disagreed with the judicially authorized search amounting to “relentless disregard.” rights of former presidents.
Based on her Sept. 5 order that initially approved Trump’s request for a special review, Cannon sees a need to strengthen public trust in the search because Trump, as a former president, faces a greater reputation if wrongly indicted Damage risk against him.
Trump’s claim on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Thursday that he declassified government records brought to Mar-a-Lago was not an argument he made in any legal context.
Cannon’s order Thursday also raised suspicions that all classified documents were in fact classified.
“The court finds it inappropriate to accept the government’s conclusions on these important and contentious issues without further scrutiny by a neutral third party in an expeditious and orderly manner,” she said, referring to the Justice Department’s claim Claims that these documents may be classified. And Trump cannot possibly have a possessive interest in any of them.
This story has been updated with more details.