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US Justice Dept agrees to Trump ‘special master’ suggestion

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This undated file photo released by the US Department of Justice on August 31, 2022 shows a photo of documents allegedly seized at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort spread over a carpet./AFP
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Sep 13, 2022 - 11:35 AM

WASHINGTON — The US Department of Justice will accept the appointment of one of the judges proposed by Donald Trump as a “special master” in the investigation of classified documents seized from the former president’s Florida home last month, it said Monday.

Despite pushback from the department, federal judge Aileen Cannon agreed last week to grant Trump’s request to name an independent reviewer for the case, assigned to look over the hundreds of classified documents taken from his Mar-a-Lago resort in an FBI raid August 8.

Trump is facing mounting legal pressure, with the Justice Department saying top-secret documents were “likely concealed” to obstruct an FBI probe into his potential mishandling of classified materials.

He has denied all wrongdoing, saying the raid was “one of the most egregious assaults on democracy in the history of our country.”

On Friday, Trump’s legal team and the Justice Department each submitted to Judge Cannon the names of two candidates for the role.

But in a court filing earlier Monday, Trump rejected both of the government’s nominations.

The department said in its own court filing later Monday that it would agree to the appointment of Trump suggestion Judge Raymond Dearie, from the Eastern District of New York, in addition to its own nominees.

Justice officials had originally suggested retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith, and said they would accept any of the three due to their “previous federal judicial experience and engagement in relevant areas of law.”

The filing also noted the department “respectfully opposes the appointment of Paul Huck, Jr,” the Trump team’s second nominee, a federal judge from Florida, “who does not appear to have similar experience.”

Trump’s legal team did not include the reason for rejecting Jones and Griffith in its filing, saying “it is more respectful to the candidates from either party to withhold the bases for opposition from a public, and likely to be widely circulated, pleading.”

It is now up to Cannon to choose whether to name 78-year-old Dearie to the case.

Government attorneys previously opposed Trump’s special master request all together, arguing that an independent screening for privileged material could harm national security, and was also unnecessary as a team had already completed a screening.

In addition to the documents probe, Trump faces investigations in New York into his business practices, as well as legal scrutiny over his efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election, and for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

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