September 27, 2023

A federal judge gave notice in a “preliminary order” order Saturday of her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master” in response to former President Donald Trump’s motion filed last Monday. Her decision is not yet final, and she called for additional steps to be taken before she makes her final decision on whether a special master should be appointed.

In her order, Judge Aileen Cannon directed the government to respond to Trump’s motion by Aug. 30, and to submit with its response a “more detailed” description of the property “seized pursuant to the warrant” by the FBI from Trump’s Florida residence.

Cannon asked for a “particularized” description of “the status of the DOJ’s’ review of the seized property, including any filter review conducted by the privilege review team and any dissemination of materials beyond the privilege review team.”

She has also asked both parties for their positions on the “duties and responsibilities” of a special master. One logistical hurdle would be the selection of the special master. In this case, that individual would require a top security clearance, because at least some of the material collected in the Mar-a-Lago search includes sets of documents with a range of classifications from confidential up to “top secret.

The court wrote that the preliminary order “should not be construed as a final determination” on Trump’s motion, and scheduled a hearing for Sept. 1.

Trump’s motion called the search warrant “overbroad” and alleged investigators collected “presumptively privileged” documents created during his time in office, arguing “it is unreasonable to allow the prosecutorial team to review them without meaningful safeguards.”

Trump also asked the court to block the Justice Department from reviewing the material taken in the Aug. 8 Mar-a-Lago search until the special master is appointed, but the judge did not include that in her preliminary order.

– Robert Legare contributed to this report.

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