Judge Cannon Assigns Special Master, Refuses to Let DOJ Examine Classified Docs

The federal judge who ordered that a special master be assigned to examine documents retrieved by the FBI last month from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has assigned Raymond Dearie, a Reagan-era judge that both Trump’s lawyers and the Department of Justice (DOJ) agree on.

Cannon instructed both sides to nominate candidates for the role. Trump’s lawyers suggested two names, including Dearie. Two nominees were also submitted by the DOJ, but they were not approved. Dearie’s nomination to look at the documents in order to determine whether their retrieval violated Trump’s so-called “executive privilege.”

Dearie will be required to examine more that 11,000 documents removed from the Palm Beach, Florida estate. This includes approximately 100 government documents that were classified. Some of these documents are so classified that FBI agents have to examine them. had to get special clearances before being able to handle them.

Cannon also rejected a DOJ motion that classified items should be exempted from her previous ruling. The lawyers for the department argued these documents belonged not to Trump but to the government and should be exempted the long process of Dearie’s inspection.

The decision by Cannon — a Trump-appointed judge whose original ruling ordering the special master was panned by many legal experts — is likely to be appealed. Last week, the Justice Department warned that Cannon’s decision to allow the agency to inspect classified documents as part of its investigation was not being changed and that it would ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for an appeal.

The DOJ has already filed an appeal against the need for a special master altogether, noting that Trump’s claims of executive privilege are improper.

“Supreme Court precedent makes clear that any possible assertion of privilege that [Trump] might attempt to make over the classified records would be overcome by the government’s ‘demonstrated, specific need’ for that evidence,” The DOJ stated in its appeal last Wednesday.

Several legal minds denounced Cannon’s ruling on Thursday.

“Cannon’s order “prohibit[s] DOJ from using classified documents to further the criminal investigation,” former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance said on Twitter, adding that she believed the order was a “terrible ruling.”

“This latest decision is both a stupid and profoundly partisan piece of work,” tweeted Andrew Weissmann, a former DOJ attorney. “Judge Dearie is jumping into this snake pit, and hopefully can right this ship quickly.”

Laurence Tribe is a Harvard Law School professor emeritus. He noted that Trump gets special treatment due to his status as a former President. “Cannon is openly trashing the principle that all are equal before the law,” he said. “Not in her court, they’re not!”