A federal judge on Monday approved former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to oversee the FBI’s audit of materials seized in an August raid on Mar-a-Lago.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon approved Trump’s request after the former president’s attorneys and a legal team from the Department of Justice (DOJ) met over the request in court last week. Cannon’s decision comes days after she released a more detailed list of materials confiscated by the FBI from Trump’s Florida resort, which has served as his residence since he exited the White House in January 2021.
On August 8, the FBI raided Trump’s residence in an unprecedented move that ignited a firestorm of controversy around the agency. Cannon said the case’s unusual nature partly contributed to her decision.
“Pursuant to the Court’s equitable jurisdiction and inherent supervisory authority, and mindful of the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented, Plaintiff’s Motion [ECF No. 1] is GRANTED IN PART,” Cannon wrote in her order. “The Court hereby authorizes the appointment of a special master to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.”
Cannon’s order also temporarily stops the FBI’s criminal investigation into the materials seized from Trump.
Last week in court, the DOJ team argued against a special master, saying that the FBI’s privilege review team had already separated potentially protected materials from government documents. The DOJ also noted that a special master appointment at such a late stage in the audit would needlessly slow the bureau’s work.
Trump’s team asserted that a special master was needed to protect Trump’s interests as the FBI reviewed seized materials, many of which have not been claimed to belong to the government. Trump’s legal team is most interested in documents and records that it claims are protected by attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, however.
Cannon said on Thursday that she would unseal a more detailed list of the materials taken during the Mar-a-Lago raid. The 8-page document, released on Friday, provides a fuller picture of what agents took from Mar-a-Lago, though it still lacks specifics of what numerous documents contained.
According to the inventory list, agents removed material from Trump’s office and a storage room consisting of classified documents and records and more mundane objects such as “clothing/gift” items, books, and printouts of news articles.
For example, a box of material taken from Trump’s office contained two documents marked confidential, 15 documents marked secret, seven documents marked top secret, and 69 other documents or photos without classification markings. The box also contained 99 magazine or news articles written between January 2017 and October 2018 and dozens of empty folders labeled either “CLASSIFIED” or “Return to Staff Secretary/Miliary [sic] Aide.”