DOJ Reveals Seizure of Materials with Attorney-Client Privilege, Judge Could Appoint a Special Master

The Department of Justice revealed critical information on Monday from its team of investigators given the task of identifying materials that were seized in the raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month. They were tasked with identifying from what was taken those materials that have potential attorney-client privilege, and they have now completed their review.

Now they begin the process of preparing to address the privilege disputes that will certainly come from Trump’s legal team.

They have officially filed their findings with District Judge Aileen Cannon and have received the filing’s receipt. Judge Cannon has indicated that she is leaning towards granting a request from the former president to appoint a special master to take leadership in the ongoing review of all materials taken from the seizure. 

The Department of Justice is already admitting that their initial filter team has already “identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information,” U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez wrote in a filing Monday.

The DOJ has said in other filings that their filter team is separate from the team that is involved in the criminal investigation portion of the process.

That is not enough for the Trump legal team. They continue to ask for the appointment of a special master to take the reigns in reviewing any material in the search that should be covered by executive privilege. 

The problem is that it is still unclear how materials of this matter would be identified and what the basis would be to exclude them from the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation. 

The DOJ also communicated to Judge Cannon that they, along with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are involved in a classification review of materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago. They are also conducting a separate intelligence community assessment of any potential risk to national security if materials in the investigation were disclosed that were classified.

Right now, the DOJ is saying they expect to file a much more detailed response to the former President’s request for a special master early this week. This is within the deadline that was set by Judge Cannon earlier in the process. 

DOJ Could Appoint Special Master in Trump Case

This is a change in position with the DOJ, previously they made it clear that they opposed an appointment of a special master. There is a hearing set for Thursday of this week in West Palm Beach where Judge Cannon will hear oral arguments from both sides on this significant request. 

The Justice Department complied with a court order in a separate case Friday by releasing the affidavit used to seek the warrant to search Trump’s Florida home. This filing revealed that documents taken from the initial retrieval in January included 184 classified documents and some of them dealt with human intelligence sources. 

Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, alerted lawmakers over the weekend that the intelligence community would conduct its assessment of what has been seized. They will look into the potential fallout of the mishandling of intelligence from the January section of documents.

In the request for a special master, Trump’s team also focused on some additional legal questions of case law that supported their request. One of the cases highlighted had to do with his former attorney Rudy Giuliani.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon has put both parties on notice that she had a “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master, a third-party attorney who would filter out privileged material seized in the search.

As more and more gets revealed from this story, the one thing that remains absent is the proverbial “smoking gun.”