The U.S. Department of Justice apparently has a lot to say in response to former President Donald Trump’s request that a special master handle the materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort.
U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Monday granted a request from Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, to submit a brief of up to 40 pages “in order to adequately address the legal and factual issues raised” Trump’s lawyers’ 21-page motion seeking the appointment of a special master, rather than the standard 20 pages. Trump’s team didn’t oppose the request, which Cannon granted not long after it was filed.
Cannon on Saturday had given the DOJ until “on or before” Tuesday to file its response after announcing her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master.” A hearing is scheduled Thursday at 1 p.m. before Cannon at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida.
A Trump appointee, Cannon is not the judge who authorized the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago that led to the seizure of boxes of classified national security documents on Aug. 8. That was U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart, who like all federal magistrates is serving an eight-year term at the appointment of the Article III judges in his district.
Trump’s lawyers, include Lindsey Halligan, a solo practitioner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, James Trusty of Ifrah Law PLLC in Washington, D.C., and M. Evan Corcoran of Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White in Baltimore, Maryland, haven’t challenged the actual search but are instead seeking the return of some property as well as the special master appointment.
Cannon was assigned to the case shortly after it was filed on Aug. 22.
Special masters have been appointed to review potentially privileged materials in other high-profile cases, including a search of Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, a raid involving Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, and a search of the homes of staffers at Project Veritas.
But the Department of Justice also has an internal process for handling such material, known as the privilege-review team or filter/taint team. One was used in the California prosecution of Michael Avenatti for defrauding clients, and the DOJ has said one is being used to review Trump lawyer John Eastman’s cell phone after federal agents seized it in New Mexico in June. A hearing in Eastman’s case had been scheduled for Sept. 6, but a judge vacated it Tuesday morning and will instead rule on the briefings.
The documents at issue in the Mar-a-Lago search, however, go well beyond attorney-client privilege issues and into top-secret national security issues, described by the National Security Counselors as an “exceedingly esoteric corner of the law.”
Leaders of the nonprofit law firm on Monday submitted the names and curriculum vitae of four potential special masters they described as “uniquely qualified” and willing to serve, while caution the group is “not advocating for or against the appointment of a Special Master and take no position on that question.”
The experts are:
- Heidi Kitrosser, professor, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
- Mark Rozell, dean, George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government
- Jonathan Shaub, assistant professor of law, University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law
- Mitchel Sollenberger, Ph.D., professor of political science, University of Michigan-Dearborn
(Image: Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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