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Judge grants Trump request to appoint special master in document search

An photo contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on August 30, 2022, shows documents seized during the August 8 search by the FBI of former president Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Department of Justice via AP)
An photo contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on August 30, 2022, shows documents seized during the August 8 search by the FBI of former president Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Department of Justice via AP)

A federal judge grants a request by former president Donald Trump’s legal team to appoint a special master to review documents seized by the FBI from his Florida home last month and also temporarily halts the Justice Department’s use of the records for investigative purposes.

The decision by US District Judge Aileen Cannon comes despite the objections of the Justice Department, which said an outside legal expert was not necessary, in part because officials had already completed their review of potentially privileged documents. The judge had previously signaled her inclination to approve a special master, asking a department lawyer during arguments this month, “What is the harm?”

The appointment is likely to slow the pace of the department’s investigation into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago, given the judge’s directive that the Justice Department may not for the moment use any of the seized materials for investigative purposes. But it is not clear that it will have any significant effect on any investigative decisions or the ultimate outcome of the probe.

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