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Federal Judge Inclined to Appoint Special Master to Oversee Seized Mar-a-Lago Materials

Hyemin Han
Monday, August 29, 2022, 12:00 PM

Judge Aileen Cannon of the Southern District of Florida provided notice of the court's intent to appoint a special master to oversee documents seized from the Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

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A federal judge issued a preliminary order on Saturday giving notice of the court's intent to grant former President Donald Trump's request to appoint a special master to oversee materials obtained during the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago. In addition to providing notice of her intent to appoint a special master, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon also directed the Justice Department to file under seal a "more detailed Receipt of Property" that lists all items seized during the search executed on Aug. 8 and a notice outlining the status of review of the materials by the Justice Department, the Privilege Review Team (as described in paragraphs 81-84 of the search warrant affidavit), or any other parties. 

The Justice Department responded to Cannon's order on Monday morning, agreeing to file the search log and review status under seal. The department also noted in its filing that the Privilege Review Team identified a limited set of materials that may contain attorney-client privileged information, completed its review of those materials, and is working to address any potential privilege disputes. The Justice Department indicated that it is working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on a classification review of the documents, and that the intelligence community is assessing the potential national security risk that would result from disclosure of the materials. The filings under seal as well as the government's public response to Trump's Aug. 22 motion is expected by Aug. 30. 

Trump had filed a Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief in the Southern District of Florida on Aug. 22 requesting the appointment of a special master "to protect the integrity of privileged documents" pursuant to Rule 53(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Trump had also requested that the government provide the court with a log of the property that had been taken during the search, suggesting that certain items were seized that were "not within the scope of the Search Warrant" and that the search warrant itself was overly broad and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Oral arguments are set to be heard on Sep. 1. You can read the preliminary order here and below:

Hyemin Han is an associate editor of Lawfare and is based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in eviction defense and has interned on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth independent daily.

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