The Justice Department's criminal probe is likely to be delayed by a federal judge's decision to name a special master to evaluate documents the FBI obtained during its search of former President Donald Trump's Florida residence on Monday.
Trump's request for a special master, an impartial third party occasionally appointed in delicate cases to review documents that may be protected by attorney-client privilege, was granted by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in her decision in West Palm Beach, Florida.
According to Cannon, the employee will be entrusted with analyzing records that may be subject to executive privilege in addition to those that are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
It is unknown legal ground to permit a special master to evaluate documents that might be protected by presidential privilege, a legal theory that might prevent some White House information from being made public.
Additionally, Cannon directed the Justice Department to cease studying the documents as part of its criminal investigation, which will probably restrict the department's ability to conduct further inquiry, if only briefly.
However, Cannon said American intelligence officials might keep investigating whether the records might endanger national security if they were made public.
Trump is being investigated for taking official documents from the White House after he left in January 2021 and storing them in his residence at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, some of which were marked as highly confidential.
Following the FBI's discovery of evidence suggesting that Trump's staff may have purposefully concealed secret documents when agents attempted to recover them in June, the Justice Department has announced that it is also looking into potential obstruction.
The government's probe may be hampered if the special master determines that part of the information is protected by Trump's assertions of executive privilege.
Trump selected Cannon in 2020, just months before he left office, and Cannon rejected the administration's claims that the documents belonged to the government and that Trump could no longer assert executive privilege because he was no longer the president.
She gave Friday as the deadline for the Justice Department and Trump's legal team to submit an unified list of potential special master candidates. Regardless of who the court ultimately chooses, they must possess the necessary security clearances and legal knowledge.
The Justice Department has not said whether it will challenge Cannon's decision or on what grounds.
According to Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Justice Department, The United States is reviewing the ruling and will consider appropriate next measures in the ongoing dispute.
Requests for comment from Trump's representatives went unanswered.
Trump, however, added Remember, it takes courage and "guts" to challenge a thoroughly corrupt Department of "Justice" and the FBI in a post on his Truth Social platform after Cannon's decision.
MANY MANY MANY SPECIAL TREATMENTS
On Monday, a few legal authorities criticized the judge's order as seriously faulty.
According to Jonathan Shaub, a former attorney with the Justice Department, this is not something the courts do.
At this point in the investigation, before an indictment has even been returned, he said it was strange for Cannon to prevent the Justice Department from studying the information.
According to Shaub, it gives a lot of unique treatment.
Cannon stated in her decision that any future indictment based on the seizure of such materials would damage Trump's reputation because of the stigma associated with having had his home searched.
Trump claims that the Justice Department is conducting a biased witch hunt against him without providing any supporting evidence. His attorneys suggested that the government would benefit greatly from having a neutral third party analyze the documents.
The Justice Department maintained that since its filter team a team of agents who are not involved in the investigation had finished its work, there was no need to appoint a special master.
520 pages that might be protected by the attorney-client privilege were found and set aside by the agents, the prosecution claimed at a hearing on September 1. The investigation team for the criminal investigation has already looked over the remaining documents.
Cannon said she was aware of at least two occasions in which members of the investigative team were exposed to data that were later identified as possibly privileged, and she expressed her concerns about how the Justice Department had handled its privilege assessment in her decision on Monday.
She argued that just those occurrences raise concerns about the effectiveness of the filter review procedure, even if they were wholly unintentional.
Republican and Democratic former Justice Department attorneys alike have condemned Trump's request for a special master.
Bill Barr, a Trump appointee and former attorney general, told Reuters in an interview that he didn't believe a special master made sense in connection with documents that would be protected by presidential privilege.
The government owns the records if they constitute formal discussions concerning executive acts and are therefore protected by executive privilege.
John Bolton, a former assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Division and Trump's top national security adviser, referred to the judge's decision as amateurish"and poorly thought out.
The temporary injunction should be immediately appealed, but Bolton advised the Justice Department to cooperate and hasten the execution of the judge's decision.