On Sept. 22, the special master appointed to oversee the more than 11,000 documents seized during the FBI’s August raid on former President Donald Trump’s home had a request for Trump’s legal team:
Declare in court whether all of them are accurate, and be ready to do it in eight days.
If that sounds like a lot, there was still another complication: Trump’s lawyers didn’t have access to all of the documents, since some of them were marked as “classified.”
It was a request absurd enough that it got struck down by the same federal judge who appointed the special master in the first place.
On Thursday, just one day before the deadline, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ruled that Trump wouldn’t be forced to comply, according to UPI,
“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the seized materials,” Cannon wrote in her decision.
“The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation,” she added.
The directive had been issued by senior federal Judge Raymond Dearie — appointed to assess whether some of the documents seized in the Aug. 8 raid were privileged — who wished to address implications from Trump on social media that the FBI might have planted evidence during the raid.
Even though there were over 11,000 documents, Dearie wanted Trump’s team to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to identify items in the inventory “that plaintiff asserts were not seized from the premises.”
“This submission shall be plaintiff’s [Trump’s] final opportunity to raise any factual dispute as to the completeness and accuracy of the Detailed Property Inventory,” Dearie wrote, according to Reuters.
Of the 11,000 documents seized, roughly 100 were marked as classified — limiting the ability of Trump’s legal team to review them.
For that matter, an order from the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disallowed even Judge Dearie from vetting those documents in a Sept. 21 ruling — all while allowing the Department of Justice to resume its investigation into them.
Trump’s attorneys argued in a Sept. 25 letter to Dearie that the plan put forth only required a government official — not Trump himself — to attest to the accuracy of the inventory.
“Additionally, the Plaintiff currently has no means of accessing the documents bearing classification markings, which would be necessary to complete any such certification by September 30, the currently proposed date of completion,” Trump’s team wrote.
Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, agreed with the former president.
In her ruling, she also noted that “[s]hould any additional matters surface during the Special Master’s review process that require reconsideration of the Inventory or the need to object to its contents, the parties shall make those matters known to the Special Master for appropriate resolution and recommendation to this Court.”
Trump also scored another victory, with Cannon ruling Trump and his lawyers don’t have to provide particular details regarding executive privilege claims to the special master as he reviews the documents.
Dearie had initially requested that Trump log documents “in categories more specific than what Cannon’s order appointing the special master had laid out,” CNN reported.
“Trump objected to making the executive privilege distinction Dearie proposed. Cannon adopted other aspects of Dearie’s plan for how the documents should be categorized.”
Still, the absurdity of requiring Trump’s team to fully and finally attest to the accuracy of the documents seized by the FBI — including documents Trump’s lawyers couldn’t even look at — was the key point of the ruling.
Dearie’s request that Trump assert the authenticity of the documents was based, primarily, on a post on Trump’s Truth Social account after the raid.
“Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be alone,” Trump wrote, “without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting.’”
You don’t need to agree with the content of that post, however, to agree the special master’s requirement that Trump verify the authenticity of the documents seized was an overreaction to a social media post that made no legal assertions — and do so in just a little over a week.
If the process didn’t look suspicious enough to Trump’s supporters before, Dearie’s order certainly did the job nicely. At the very least, Cannon’s decision has preserved a patina of judicial respectability over a case that has significantly eroded confidence in federal law enforcement among at least half the voting public.
That alone is reason enough to celebrate.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.