Justice Department, Trump to Make Recommendations for Arbiter in Documents Case

The U.S. Justice Department and attorneys for former President Donald Trump are to file a list of potential candidates that could serve the role of a “special master” to review materials seized from Trump’s Florida residence.

Legal teams for the two sides had until Friday to submit the names of candidates who could qualify for the job. A special master is an independent third party appointed by a court to review documents in sensitive legal cases.

During the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, FBI agents removed nearly 13,000 documents and items.  Among the documents, more than 100 were classified, some labeled “top secret.”

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the appointment of a special master on Monday, granting the Trump team’s request. The judge also prohibited prosecutors from viewing classified documents while an independent review is conducted but said U.S. intelligence officials can continue using the seized records to conduct a national security assessment.

The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it could not easily separate the national security review from its criminal work and has put a “pause” on its assessment.

It asked Cannon on Thursday to suspend parts of her order, saying an ongoing FBI investigation into Trump’s handling of classified records is being impeded by the ruling.

The department requested a partial stay of the ruling, which it said would allow the special master to be able to view nonclassified records seized by the FBI, including Trump’s personal items and information protected by attorney-client privilege.

“Without a stay, the government and the public will suffer irreparable harm,” Justice Department officials wrote.

The Justice Department and Donald Trump’s legal team are expected to make proposals in their Friday filings about the scope of the special master’s duties.

The FBI is investigating several potential criminal violations in connection with Trump’s retention of the documents more than a year after he left the White House.

Under the Presidential Records Act, Trump was required to turn over all documents related his presidency to the National Archives.

Cannon’s order came in response to a request by Trump for a special master to review all materials seized from his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate to determine whether any were protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege and should be returned to him.

Any candidate for the special master role would need to be skilled in the laws surrounding executive privilege as well as possibly having a top-level security clearance, if sensitive documents are included in the review.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.