Judge approves Trump’s request for ‘special master’ review of Mar-a-Lago files

A federal judge on Monday granted former president Donald Trump’s request for an independent arbiter known as a special master to review documents seized from his Florida home during an FBI search last month.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision is a victory for Trump in his legal battle with the government over sensitive materials he removed from the White House and stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

According to the decision, the government will be temporarily prohibited from reviewing the materials until the special master completes his or her review. A separate security review led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to determine whether national security has been compromised will be allowed to continue.

The federal government is investigating whether Trump may have broken the law by mishandling classified documents. The FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents during its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, including some marked as top secret. The search followed months of negotiations over the documents.

While allowing a special master to review the materials may slow down the government’s investigation, it is unlikely to shape its eventual outcome.

Trump had requested freezing further investigation of the documents until a third-party vetter could determine whether some portions should be excluded because of executive or attorney-client privilege.

Cannon, a Trump appointee, ruled in his favour over the objection of the justice department. The DoJ has already completed its own review of the materials and said it found a small number of records that should be excluded.

Trump faces other legal problems as he considers another run for the White House in 2024. The justice department is also under pressure to investigate his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, and a grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether he and those around him broke the law by attempting to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election result.

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