Why Appointing A 'Special Master' On Trump's Request To Review Mar-A-Lago Case Could Complicate Things

Zinger Key Points
  • A special master would inspect seized records and set aside those covered by executive privilege
  • Experts question who would assume the role and how they would carry out their duties
  • Possible conflict with DoJ's 'taint team' could work in favor of Trump, says expert
Why Appointing A 'Special Master'  On Trump's Request To Review Mar-A-Lago Case Could Complicate Things

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a “special master” to review the materials recovered from his Mar-a-Lago residence could be complicated, according to experts.

What Happened: On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon issued an order in which she provided notice of the court’s “ preliminary intent to appoint a special master.”

Cannon, a Trump appointee, gave the prosecutors until Tuesday to file a response to Trump’s request for the appointment of a special master, according to the order.

The judge’s ruling prompted questions surrounding who could be qualified to take on the position of a special master and how they might go around doing their job.

“It’s going to have to be somebody with expertise and experience in classified and national defense information. Those people don’t grow on trees,” said Stanley Brand, a defense attorney focused on representing clients in government investigations, The Washington Post reported.

“They are either former-somethings in the government or lawyers with a lot of experience in those issues. But that will be a contested issue as well. Once again, we’re on the frontier."

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Why It Matters: Last week, Trump’s attorneys asked for the appointment of a special master — a neutral third-party attorney who would inspect seized records and set aside those covered by executive privilege. 

Brand said the special master, if appointed, could clash with the U.S. Department of Justice’s “filter team” or “taint team” — officials unconnected with the case who ensure investigators don’t see material that could taint the case, reported the Post.

“The question for me is: What if the special master takes a different position than the taint team? How does that get resolved?” said Brand, adding that such a possibility could work in Trump’s favor.

The appointment could be irrelevant by the time both the plaintiff and defendants appear before the judge again if the review of the documents is almost complete. 

Mary McCord, the assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration, said, “There’s already been a team reviewing this for almost three weeks now ... There’s public pressure on them,” as per the report.

Former Justice Department official Andrew Weissmann questioned whether Cannon’s court could maintain jurisdiction in the case as the documents are in the federal government’s possession in Washington and no longer in Southern Florida.

Weissmann, who was a senior prosecutor in former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, reportedly said it was unprecedented that a special master was appointed to assess executive privilege. 

“DOJ has a lot of work to do in terms of setting out not just a particular position on a special master but elucidating [Cannon] on issues about attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” he was quoted as saying.

Notably, Trump’s legal team has filed the motion for the appointment of a special master before Cannon and not Judge Bruce Reinhart, who issued the search warrant for his Palm Beach estate. 

Last week, Trump said on Truth Social that Reinhart had recused himself two months ago from a civil suit due to the latter’s “bias and animus,” according to a prior report.

Truth Social is owned by Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) — a company set to go public through a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp DWAC

Price Action: On Friday, DWAC shares closed 6.5% lower at $27.52 in the regular session and rose 0.3% in extended trading, according to data from Benzinga Pro.

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Posted In: Department of JusticeDonald TrumpMar-A-LagoNewsPoliticsLegalMediaGeneral