Judge Again Rules for Trump in Mar-a-Lago Documents Fight
The judge overseeing former President Trump’s challenge to the FBI’s seizure of documents from his Mar-a-Lago Florida home sided with the President again on Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon brushed off an order from the special master in the Mar-a-Lago case requiring Trump to substantiate his claims the FBI planted evidence in his home in advance. The order from Cannon also extends the deadline for completing the external review Trump demanded of the documents.
The order comes after Trump’s legal team wrote a letter to Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master, complaining that his “management plan exceeds the grant of authority from the district court on this issue.” Cannon agreed, saying that Trump’s attorneys would get a chance to review that at-issue records themselves before being required to affirm the accuracy of the FBI’s haul from Mar-a-Lago.
“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the seized materials. The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation.”
Under the ruling, Trump will be allowed to raise his concerns about the FBI planting documents later in the process, at which point he will succeed or fail to substantiate them. But this order makes clear that substantiation beforehand is not necessary.
The order also extends the timeline to review the 200,000 pages from November 30 to December 16, as Trump’s lawyers requested. The order wiped out Drearie’s plan to break up the documents and raise objections on a rolling basis. Now, there will be one deadline, probably in early November. Trump’s team must state which documents it believes are protected by attorney-client or executive privilege and which qualify as presidential or personal records according to the Presidential Records Act.
This is the first significant shift in the case since last week when a federal appeals court rejected her decision to include 100 documents with national-security classification markings in Dearie’s review. The higher court ruled that Trump had no claim to those records, despite being found in his house, and the legitimacy of his claim to the documents is the case’s central issue. The appeals court argued that Cannon’s decision would have hurt the probe’s effectiveness.
The tension over procedure has been ongoing between the Trump-appointed Canon and Reagan-appointed Drearie, who, ironically, was one of the Trump team picks for Special Master. This order is presumably subject to appeal as well.
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