Judge Aileen Cannon sides with Trump lawyers, rejecting some of special master Raymond Dearie’s requirements in documents case

Disagreeing with the special master she appointed, federal judge Aileen Cannon ruled that former President Donald Trump’s legal team does not have to meet some of the demands he made of Trump in order to set up his review of documents the FBI found in the case Former President has confiscated Florida residency in August.

The special master, or independent arbitrator, Judge Raymond Dearie, laid out a plan earlier this month that would have required Trump’s attorneys to disclose any objections they have to the Justice Department’s inventory of items seized from Mar-a-Lago to the FBI in August.

His order would have required Trump attorneys to detail the allegations they made against the FBI and to submit a list of items that “[Trump] Allegations not seized from premises on August 8, 2022” — a possible reference to repeated claims by Trump that the FBI planted evidence at his Florida residence when they searched it on August 8.

Four days after the search, Trump complained to Truth Social that investigators were preventing his attorneys from overseeing the search, “making them wait outside in the heat, not even letting them come near,” adding, ” Feed anyone with information?”

Dearie had also asked for a list of inventory items that Trump said were confiscated but the description of what was inside or where they were found “is incorrect.” And he wanted a list of documents that the Trump team said were taken by the FBI but weren’t included in the detailed property inventory.

Trump’s attorneys protested those demands, arguing that they went beyond the scope of Cannon’s appointment of a special master and citing their own inability to access the documents now that they are in government possession.

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Cannon, who appointed Dearie special master on Trump’s own recommendation, eventually sided with the former president’s legal team on Dearie, partially bypassing the independent adjudicator’s judgment. “At this stage, prior to reviewing any of the seized materials, Plaintiff has no separate obligation to pre-define final objections to the accuracy of Defendants’ inventory, its descriptions, or its contents,” she wrote in her decision Thursday. “The appointment order of the court did not provide for this obligation.”

In response to recent procedural delays, it also ordered the special master’s review process to be extended from November 30 to December 16.

The Justice Department has not yet responded to Cannon’s order. It scored a victory last week when a federal appeals court granted its request to restore government investigators access to some 100 classified documents the FBI seized in its Mar-a-Lago raid.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed to stay a lower court’s order — a ruling by Cannon — that kept the portion of sensitive records barred from the Justice Department’s use for investigative purposes, pending review of the materials through the special master.

The panel said it agrees with the Justice Department that Cannon’s court erred in blocking investigators’ use of the classified records and then requiring them to present the sensitive documents to the outside arbitrator for review.

“For our part, we cannot see why [Trump] would have an individual interest in or need of any of the hundred documents marked as classified,” said Justices Robin Rosenbaum, Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher.

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So far, Trump has not indicated that he intends to appeal this verdict.

Robert Legare, Melissa Quinn and Associated Press contributed to this report.