The examination by a special master of items seized by the FBI last month in a raid of the southern Florida Trump property Mar-a-Lago isn’t proceeding as smoothly for the Trump team as the former president might have hoped.
Previously, the special master — who is a court-appointed, third-party expert — indicated that he was prepared to accept arguments from the Justice Department about the classification status of certain documents from the raid, a comparatively small portion of which were classified according to their markings. Seized materials reportedly even included information about another country’s nuclear capabilities, in addition to the information related to the gathering of intelligence from covert human sources to which a Justice Department court filing pointed. Although the classification status isn’t critical to the documents’ relevance, federal Judge Raymond Dearie, who’s the special master, accepting the department’s arguments about the status would have likely preceded further action in favor of allowing usage by the department of the docs for investigative purposes.
Now, the department has since been provided such an allowance in the form of a ruling by a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that included two Trump nominees. Previous restrictions from federal Judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed the special master, on the investigative usage of seized materials were also negatively impacting portions of the government investigation that didn’t directly concern Trump, like the probe of the potential national security ramifications of the info leaking. In public, although not in court, Trump has claimed he declassified the materials agents seized (although he’s also contradicted himself and suggested agents planted them). Trump “suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was president,” the appeals judges said. “But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified.”
Later on, the judges added: “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal.” Now, Dearie is challenging Cannon over permissions she apparently eliminated after the 11th Circuit’s ruling that allowed Dearie to submit interim reports and recommendations related to his work on the case. Eliminating those possibilities could functionally limit the special master’s impact.
“In the original Appointing Order, the Court directed that “the Special Master shall submit interim reports and recommendations as appropriate. Upon receipt and resolution of any interim reports and recommendations, the Court will consider prompt adjustments to the Court’s orders as necessary,”” Dearie said in a Tuesday court filing. “However, the Court later struck that language as part of its order implementing an unrelated ruling by the Eleventh Circuit. As the language quoted above as to interim reports and adjustments to prior orders is consistent with the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling and the efficient administration of the Appointing Order as amended, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the Court issue an order reinstating that language.” Dearie has a deadline of later this year after the November elections.