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A federal judge will decide on Thursday how to proceed with former President Trump’s request for a special master tasked with reviewing documents seized from Trump’s home in Florida earlier this month.
A special master is a third party, usually a lawyer, appointed by the court in cases where there is sensitive material. Trump’s request for a special petty officer was the first legal action taken by his team following the FBI’s raid of his Mar-a-Lago compound on August 8.
Over the weekend, a federal judge said she was inclined to accede to Trump’s request.
The justice departmenthowever, argued in a filing this week that “the appointment of a special captain is unnecessary and would significantly harm important government interests, including national security interests.”
The department also wrote that in the months it took the DOJ to try to retrieve the documents, Trump’s lawyers did not argue that the former president had declassified the documents he held at Mar-A. -Lago, which they now put forward.
The filing has raised questions about whether Trump and his team attempted to obstruct justice by concealing or suppressing some of the documents authorities seek.
In a response, Trump’s attorneys downplayed the Justice Department’s concerns about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, saying in a filing Wednesday that there was no “cause for alarm.”
They added that the Justice Department “significantly misinterpreted” their filing of a June meeting between prosecutors and Trump’s legal team. And, they added, that without a special master, prosecutors will “challenge, disclose and make public” the details of his investigation.
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida is set for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.
Legal experts say a special master is a procedural step, but could delay the investigation
Some experts say if a federal judge approves Trump’s request for a special master during Thursday’s hearing, it could potentially further delay the FBI investigation.
“If a special master was appointed, then he or she would have some time to review the records,” David Laufman, an attorney who previously headed the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section, told NPR. “And they would sift through the documents to determine whether something is truly privileged or not.”
Laufman added that he believes Trump’s request for a special petty officer was primarily a move aimed at undermining public trust in the DOJ and FBI.
A Justice Department team has already reviewed numerous documents and identified some that are covered by solicitor-client privilege.
Overall, however, Neal Katyal, former acting United States Solicitor General, told NPR that the potential nomination from a special master is “a big burger nothing.” He says that even if a special handler were appointed and some of the documents were returned to Trump, they would be documents the FBI and DOJ have already seen.
“It will just be a procedural hoop for the Justice Department to jump through,” Katyal said.