US judge orders 'independent' review of Trump's seized documents
The ruling is a blow to prosecutors in favor of the FBI raid.
A US judge, Aileen Cannon, fulfilled former US president Donald Trump's request to appoint a "special master" to independently review material that was seized in the FBI raid on his house in Florida, constituting a bite-back against prosecutors.
Government attorneys opposed Trump's request, saying that the appointment of a special master to screen for privileged material could harm national security, and was also unnecessary given that the investigation team completed a screening already.
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Trump denounced the seizing of classified materials from his home as "one of the most egregious assaults on democracy in the history of our country."
Cannon, in her order, wrote that "a special master shall be appointed to review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property."
The ruling made an exception for "intelligence classification and national security assessments," given that the government is temporarily blocked from looking into or using materials seized in the raid.
Both sides need to come up with a list of candidates for the 'special master' role as of Friday.
A government court filing revealed that FBI agents found material so sensitive that "even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents."
The detailed list of what was seized in the August 8 raid on the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate showed that Trump held on to more than 11,000 unclassified government records that he claims are his to keep - but legally are owned by the National Archives.
In their warrant for the raid, the FBI cited the Espionage Act, which bans the retention and sharing of highly sensitive documents pertaining to national defense; the law against obstructing investigation; and a law against the destruction of government documents.
The violation of the Espionage Act has a possible punishment of 10 years in federal prison, the statute for obstruction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and the statute for the destruction of records carries a potential lifetime ban on holding public office.
Among the papers seized in the raid were 18 documents labeled "top secret", 53 labeled "secret" and another 31 marked "confidential". Of those, seven top secret files, 17 secret files, and three confidential files were retrieved from Trump's private office.