Judge signals intent to assign special master to review some Trump records seized by FBI

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Florida asked the U.S. Department of Justice on Saturday to provide more specific instructions regarding the classified documents removed from former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence, indicating that her “preliminary intent” is to appoint his requested special master in the case.

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon signaled in a two-page order that she is inclined to grant the appointment of an independent special master to review the records removed from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI. The step, she wrote, could help identify any materials seized that may be protected by executive privilege, according to The Associated Press.

Trump is being investigated by the Justice Department as part of a national security-related criminal investigation, NBC News reported.

Arguing that the search was overly broad and resulted in the seizure of documents protected by attorney-client privilege, Trump’s legal team filed the request Monday to have an independent, court-appointed third party review the materials seized in the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida resort.

Per NBC News: “If Cannon grants Trump’s request, the special master would be in charge of reviewing documents for issues of privilege — not the highly sensitive records at the heart of the government’s investigation. Trump’s legal filing also sought protection for documents covered by executive privilege that applies to presidents, but since he’s no longer in the White House, that legal protection does not automatically apply to these records.”

The former president’s lawyers have argued that investigators did not disclose enough information to them about what specific documents were removed when agents executed a search warrant on Aug. 8 to look for classified documents.

Cannon scheduled a Thursday hearing to discuss the request by Trump’s legal team further.

The Justice Department did not comment on the order.

On Friday, another federal judge, Bruce Reinhart, released a heavily redacted copy of the search warrant affidavit detailing how FBI agents in mid-May had found 184 unique documents that had classification markings. The 36-page affidavit stated that 25 documents found at Mar-a-Lago were marked “TOP SECRET,” 67 documents were marked as “confidential” and 92 items were classified as “secret.” The affidavit also stated that some of the documents “had markings that designated intelligence gathered by ‘clandestine human sources,’ such as CIA officer reports or information related to the Defense Intelligence Agency,” NBC News reported.

Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the chairs of the House Oversight and Intelligence committees in a new letter, obtained Saturday by NBC News, that the agency is working “to facilitate a classification review of relevant” materials found at Mar-a-Lago and are assessing the “potential risk to national security” that could result from their disclosure, according to the network.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.