Former President Donald Trump’s push for a special master to oversee the Department of Justice’s review of the evidence gathered at Mar-a-Lago enters a critical moment as a hearing is set to begin soon Thursday on the request.
A federal judge has signaled a “preliminary intent” to grant the request, which could bring new complications to the DOJ’s closely watched investigation into the White House documents Trump took to his Florida residence.
Here’s what a special master is and what it would mean for the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago:
What is a special master? A special master is a third-party attorney appointed by a court to oversee part of a certain case.
If appointed in Trump’s case, the special master would oversee the Justice Department’s review of the evidence gathered from his beach club and filter out privileged material that may have been seized in the search.
Why does Trump want a special master? Trump’s legal team is broadly arguing that a special master is necessary to ensure the Justice Department returns any of his private documents seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago.
The former President’s attorneys say his constitutional rights were violated, and that there may have been privileged materials seized. But in court filings, Trump has not elaborated on what exactly he hoped a special master would filter out, besides general allusions to “privileged and potentially privileged materials.”
What is the Justice Department’s stance? The department has already signaled that it is using an internal filter team to review the seized items, to separate material that could be subject to privilege claims.
DOJ said in a court filing Monday it has identified “a limited set of materials” from its search of documents taken from Mar-a-Lago that potentially contain material covered by attorney-client privilege and is in the process of addressing privilege disputes.
Justice officials also confirmed that US intelligence officials are reviewing the documents for classified materials.
Investigators have already mentioned the work of a filter team when they returned to Trump private documents that wouldn’t be part of the investigation, such as two expired passports and his diplomatic passport.
The Justice Department, in court documents, has said it believed the evidence it collected at Mar-a-Lago will support its criminal investigation into the mishandling of federal records, including national defense material, after Trump’s team took boxes of records to Florida when he left office.
The probe is also looking at potential obstruction of justice in the investigation.