WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department and Donald Trump’s legal team proposed candidates Friday for the role of an independent arbiter within the investigation into top-secret documents found at the previous president’s Florida home, however the two sides differed on the scope of duties the person would have.
Lawyers for Trump said they imagine the so-called special master should review all documents seized by the FBI during its search last month of Mar-a-Lago, including records with classification markings, and filter out any that could be protected by claims of executive privilege.
The Justice Department said it doesn’t imagine the arbiter must be permitted to examine classified records or to consider potential claims of executive privilege.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had given either side until Friday to submit potential candidates for the role of a special master, in addition to proposals for the scope of the person’s duties and the schedule for his or her work.
The Justice Department submitted the names of two retired judges — Barbara Jones, who served on the federal bench in Manhattan and performed the identical role in prior high-profile investigations, and Thomas Griffith, a former federal appeals court jurist within the District of Columbia.
The Trump team proposed one retired judge, Raymond Dearie — also the previous top federal prosecutor within the Eastern District of Recent York — and outstanding Florida lawyer Paul Huck Jr.
The back-and-forth over the special master is playing out amid an FBI investigation into the retention of several hundred classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago throughout the past yr. Though the legal wrangling is unlikely to have major long-term effects on the criminal investigation or knock it significantly off track, it can almost definitely delay it and has already caused the intelligence community to temporarily pause a national risk assessment.
Over the strenuous objections of the Justice Department, Cannon on Monday granted the Trump team’s request for the special master and directed the department to temporarily halt its review of records for investigative purposes.
She said the person could be chargeable for sifting through the records recovered in the course of the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and filtering out any documents potentially covered by claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.
Roughly 11,000 documents — including greater than 100 with classified markings, some on the top-secret level — were recovered in the course of the search. That’s on top of classified documents contained in 15 boxes retrieved in January by the National Archives and Records Administration, and extra sensitive government records the department took back during a June visit to Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department had objected to the Trump team’s request for a special master, saying it had already accomplished its own review during which identified a limited subset of records that possibly involve attorney-client privilege. It has maintained that executive privilege doesn’t apply on this investigation because Trump, now not president, had no right to say the documents as his.
The department on Thursday filed a notice of appeal indicating that it will contest the judge’s order to the eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Officials asked the judge to lift her hold on their investigative work pending their appeal, in addition to her requirement that the department share with a special master the classified records that were recovered.
It shouldn’t be clear whether Trump or anyone else will probably be charged.
This can be a developing story. Please check back for updates.