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Judge Delivers a Crushing Ruling for DOJ, Hands Reins to a Reagan Appointee

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Thursday, a federal court designated a special master to evaluate records taken during the FBI search on the Mar-a-Lago resort of former President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.

In addition to appointing retired Judge Raymond Dearie, who had been suggested by the Trump campaign for the position, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon stated that the Justice Department cannot access the allegedly sensitive documents seized during the search last month.

Dearie, who was nominated to the federal court in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan, was the only one of four names provided by Trump or the Justice Department on which the two parties could agree. According to The Hill, he retired from his position as U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York late last month.

Trump is obligated to cover the fees of the special master, whose report is due on November 30.

In her ruling, the court rejected an argument by the Justice Department of the Biden administration that it should be entitled to study around 100 secret papers and prevent the special master from viewing them.

Trump nominated Cannon to serve in May 2020 on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The judge observed in her decision that the Justice Department wanted everything its way.

“If the court were willing to accept the government’s representations that select portions of the seized materials are — without exception — government property not subject to any privileges, and did not think a special master would serve a meaningful purpose, the court would have denied plaintiff’s special master request,” Cannon wrote. In this case, Trump is the plaintiff.

She wrote that “evenhanded procedure does not demand unquestioning trust in the determinations of the Department of Justice.”

The Justice Department has claimed about 100 records were classified. Noting that this is an area of dispute, Cannon said those records must be reviewed by Dearie with all the rest.

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“In many respects, the Government’s position thus presupposes the content, designation, and associated interests in materials under its control — yet, as the parties’ competing filings reveal, there are disputes as to the proper designation of the seized materials, the legal implications flowing from those designations, and the intersecting bodies of law permeating those designations,” the judge wrote.

Cannon said the government cannot use the documents in question in any investigation related to Trump.

She wrote that she “does not find the Government’s argument sufficiently convincing as presented. First, there has been no actual suggestion by the Government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from Plaintiff’s allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property.”

“Instead, and unfortunately, the unwarranted disclosures that float in the background have been leaks to the media after the underlying seizure,” the judge wrote.

Her bottom line: “The court does not find it appropriate to accept the government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion.”

The Justice Department is planning to appeal the decision, The New York Times reported, citing a senior law enforcement official who was not named.

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