This is the latest legal twist in the Justice Department’s landmark criminal investigation into Trump’s potential mishandling of documents as his term ended in January 2021. The FBI executed a search warrant last month. last at the former president’s Florida home and compound, seizing 11,000 documents, including more than 100 classified government documents.
Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted Trump’s request for a special master — a third-party attorney outside the government — and ordered Justice Department criminal investigators to stop using documents seized as part of their ongoing investigation until the special master completes their review.
It will be up to Cannon to settle the differences.
The Justice Department wants the special master to act relatively quickly, concluding his review in five weeks, by October 17. Trump proposed 90 days.
The Justice Department also argued that the special master should not touch any documents with classification marks and that the review should not include any consideration of executive privilege. Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, want the special master to review “all seized documents,” including classified documents.
Whoever ends up being appointed to fill the role will immediately be catapulted into the center of one of the most important criminal investigations in modern American history.
Justice Department nominees: Griffith and Jones
The Justice Department has appointed two retired federal judges — Thomas Griffith and Barbara Jones — to serve as special masters.
Griffith, a Bush appointee, served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals from 2005 to 2020. In one of his last major rulings before retiring, he wrote the majority opinion rejecting the attempted House Democrats to subpoena former Trump White House attorney Don McGahn. (The decision was later reversed.)
Griffith then co-wrote a report alongside other prominent conservative lawyers and officials debunking Trump’s lies about massive fraud in the 2020 election. And he publicly endorsed President Joe Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown. Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court.
Jones, appointed by Bill Clinton to the federal bench, is a former federal prosecutor and retired judge for the Southern District of New York from 1995 to 2012.
She was tapped to serve as a special master to review documents seized during an FBI raid on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in April 2021. She also served as a special master in the Michael Cohen case, to ensure that the investigators did not scan any documents. which were attorney-client confidential. Giuliani and Cohen were both Trump’s attorneys while they were under investigation by the Justice Department.
Trump nominees: Huck Jr. and Dearie
Trump’s legal team named attorney Paul Huck Jr. and judge Raymond Dearie to serve as special counsel.
Huck, who has his own law firm, had been a partner at the law firm Jones Day, which represented the Trump campaign in 2016, and a contributor to the conservative Federalist Society legal organization.
He previously served as Florida’s assistant attorney general and general counsel to former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who was a Republican at the time and now a Democratic candidate for governor of Florida. Chris Kise, Trump’s current attorney, also worked for Crist and rode Huck. They worked together at the Florida Attorney General’s office.
Huck’s wife, Barbara Lagoa, was on Trump’s shortlist as a Supreme Court nominee following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020.
Dearie has been a federal judge in New York since 1986, when he was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit.
Dearie also served a seven-year term on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. He was one of the judges who approved a request from the FBI and DOJ to monitor Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, as part of the federal probe into Russian interference in the election. of 2016.
The details are up to the judge
Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge presiding over the case, said she would decide “the exact details and mechanics” of the special main process “promptly” after both sides submit their proposals. It is unclear whether she will hold a hearing on the matter or simply issue a written order with her decision.
The two sides haven’t agreed on much throughout the litigation, and it’s no surprise that their proposals submitted Friday set out starkly different visions for how the special master should conduct their review.
For example, the two parties also disagree on who should pay the special master. Trump’s attorneys have proposed that the costs incurred by the special master be “divided evenly” between him and the US government. The Justice Department told the judge they think Trump should pay for it all because he’s the one “asking for the special master.”
Separate appeal and request by Cannon to continue the investigation
The Justice Department also says it must be allowed to continue accessing classified documents while the intelligence community reviews the documents for national security reasons, arguing that intelligence review cannot be easily separated from the criminal investigation. Leading federal prosecutors said the intelligence review was temporarily halted due to Cannon’s decision, undermining national security.
The unprecedented search came after another federal judge cleared the warrant, finding there was ‘probable cause’ for several crimes, including violations of the Espionage Act and possible obstruction of Justice. FBI agents recovered more than 100 classified documents during the search, including 18 marked “top secret”, which is the highest level of classification.
The investigation revolves around the possible mishandling of classified government documents. The US government has recovered at least 325 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago this year, thanks to Trump’s voluntary transfer of documents in January, a grand jury subpoena in June and an FBI search last month. .
Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
This story has been updated with additional details.