A Trump-appointed federal judge, Aileen Cannon of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, ordered the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized by the FBI during their legally-authorized search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence. The special master would review the documents for any material that was subject to attorney-client privilege or to Trump’s claimed executive privilege, although most legal experts say that executive privilege ceases upon leaving the presidency.
In the ruling, Judge Cannon enjoins the Department of Justice from reviewing the seized documents for any “investigative purpose” in its investigation of the classified document scandal until the special master has completed their own review. This is likely to delay any potential indictment of Trump until after the special master is done.
Cannon issued her ruling on Labor Day, a federal holiday that typically sees little official business conducted, leading many to believe that the judge was trying to slip her ruling in under the radar on a day that many people are busy with parades, picnics, and barbecues.
Judge Cannon explained her decision by saying that she made it “to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances,” although she didn’t explain how catering to the delusions of a proven liar advanced that fairness and integrity.
Cannon did say that she was “not convinced” of the Justice Department’s assertion that executive privilege did not apply to the former president.
“Even if any assertion of executive privilege by plaintiff ultimately fails in this context, that possibility, even if likely, does not negate a former president’s ability to raise the privilege as an initial matter,” she wrote. “Accordingly, because the privilege review team did not screen for material potentially subject to executive privilege, further review is required for that additional purpose.”
The only good news in the judge’s ruling was the fact that “her order would not, however, affect a separate review of the documents being led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” as The New York Times reported, meaning that the review of the national security implications of Trump’s massive security breach would continue.
While the ruling will likely delay the DOJ’s investigation of Trump’s purloined documents, the Justice Department can appeal the judge’s ruling to a higher court, a move that could potentially delay the investigation even further.
The fact that Judge Cannon did not recuse herself from a case brought by the man who appointed her to the bench is frankly shameful and presents an appearance of favoritism and corruption in many people’s eyes.
Let’s hope that the Justice Department finds a way to move the investigation of Donald Trump forward as quickly as possible, special master or not.
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