Mar-a-Lago search: DOJ appeals decision to order special master to review evidence seized

The Justice Department filed a notice with US District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointee who ordered the special master, announcing its intent to appeal her decision.

The Justice Department had vigorously opposed the appointment of a special master, which is a third-party attorney tasked with reviewing evidence and filtering out privileged documents. The department argued to Cannon the independent review wasn’t necessary, given the internal DOJ filter practices that had been used in the search. Prosecutors argued it would impede both the criminal investigation into the handling of documents from Trump’s White House and national security risk analysis being conducted by the intelligence community.

In her Monday order granting Trump’s request for the special master, Cannon halted any use of the seized materials for the DOJ’s criminal investigation. She said, however, that the intelligence community’s assessment could continue.

Cannon had also ordered that the independent review look for documents potentially covered by executive privilege — in addition to the attorney-client privilege concerns that are usually a special master’s focus.

The move, described as novel by both the Justice Department and outside legal experts stands to protract the review as the criminal investigation remains hindered by Cannon’s injunction.

Why finding a special master for the Trump Mar-a-Lago documents won't be simple

Trump filed the lawsuit seeking the special master two weeks after the search warrant was executed on his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort. According to submissions the Justice Department made to the magistrate judge who approved the warrant, the FBI is investigating potential violations of the Espionage Act, criminal mishandling of government documents and obstruction of justice.

The FBI seized more than 100 classified records during the August 8 search, according to court filings in the case.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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