Trump won’t have to say if he thinks FBI planted documents as judge overrules special master she appointed

Florida federal judge has repeatedly intervened in FBI investigation of Trump documents

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 30 September 2022 22:13 BST
Judge Overrules Special Master Order for Trump To Prove FBI ‘Planted’ Evidence at Mar-a-La

The Florida federal judge who has repeatedly intervened in the FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s hoarding of government-owned documents after his term ended in 2021 has once again stepped in to assist the ex-president’s efforts to delay review of documents seized during the 8 August search of his Florida residence.

Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday rejected a case management plan put forth by Judge Raymond Dearie, the New York jurist who she appointed as a special master to review the more than 10,000 documents taken from Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property to determine whether any should be shielded from the government under attorney-client or executive privilege.

Judge Dearie had ordered Mr Trump’s attorneys to submit a declaration under oath regarding whether any of the documents listed in an FBI inventory of what was seized from Mr Trump’s property were planted as the ex-president has repeatedly alleged. But Judge Cannon overruled him and said she was doing so because her order appointing him as a special master in the case did not direct him to ask for such declarations.

“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant’s Inventory, its descriptions, or its contents,” she wrote, adding that her previous order “did not contemplate that obligation”.

Judge Cannon also rejected an accelerated timeline for review of the documents that had been laid out by Judge Dearie, instead choosing to give the Trump team more leeway to delay the proceedings by extending the deadline for completion to 14 December.

Legal experts have panned her ruling as being without basis in law and as showing bias towards Mr Trump, who named her to the bench in late 2020.

Andrew Weissman, an ex-prosecutor who worked on the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign’s alleged ties with Russia, wrote that the Florida judge had “tinker[ed] badly with Judge Dearie’s scheduling order, relieving Trump of obligation to say whether docs were planted, even though she had wanted a clear inventory of what was found”.

“She is such a disgrace,” he added.

Harvard Law School emeritus professor Laurence Tribe said on Twitter that she was “clearly wrong” in her order, but he also called her a “sideshow” because her previous injunction against using the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago to further the DOJ’s probe has been lifted by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Another law professor, University of Texas Law School professor Steve Vladek, wrote: “Everyone has a point past which it's hard to believe that a particular person is acting in good faith. If we weren't there already for Judge Cannon...”

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