Trump Mar-a-Lago case: Justice Department open to one of Trump’s proposed candidates for special master review
The Justice Department said it is open to a judge appointing one of the candidates that former President Donald Trump’s legal team put forward as a special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, according to a court filing Monday evening.
DOJ said senior Judge Raymond Dearie is acceptable, along with its two previously proposed selections: retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith.
“Each have substantial judicial experience, during which they have presided over federal criminal and civil cases, including federal cases involving national security and privilege concerns,” prosecutors wrote.
Dearie, originally a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan, has served as a federal judge in New York since the 1980s. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge on the circuit.
Dearie also served a seven-year term on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. He was one of the judges who approved an FBI and DOJ request to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, as part of the federal inquiry into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
It is unclear when US District Judge Aileen Cannon will decide who the special master is.
Cannon last week granted Trump’s request for a third-party attorney outside of the government to review the seized materials and asked that each side submit proposed candidates. Cannon also ordered criminal investigators at the Justice Department to stop using the seized materials as part of their ongoing probe until the special master finishes his or her review.
Earlier Monday, Trump said he opposes the Justice Department’s two proposed candidates to be the special master, but didn’t explain why.
“Plaintiff objects to the proposed nominees of the Department of Justice. Plaintiff believes there are specific reasons why those nominees are not preferred for service as Special Master in this case,” the Trump lawyers wrote.
The Justice Department nominated Griffith, who served as a judge on US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, from 2005 to 2020, and Jones, a former federal prosecutor who has been a special master in several recent high-profile investigations.
The Trump team also has suggested lawyer Paul Huck Jr., a former partner at the Jones Day law firm. The Justice Department opposed Huck Jr., noting he “does not appear to have similar experience” to the three judges.
The Trump lawyers argued Monday that the court didn’t ask for detailed reasoning, and they are trying to be “more respectful to the candidates from either party.”
“Plaintiff also submits 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,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Therefore, Plaintiff asks this Court for permission to specifically express our objections to the Government’s nominees only at such time that the Court specifies a desire to obtain and consider that information.”
Trump and the Justice Department have also disagreed on other key aspects of the special master’s responsibilities, including how long the review should take, who is responsible for paying the special master, and what type of documents are subject to review.
In a nod to the government’s hope for a speedy review of the thousands of documents seized by the FBI, the Justice Department wrote that “in selecting among the three candidates, the government respectfully requests that the Court consider and select the candidate best positioned to timely perform the special master’s assigned responsibilities.”
This story has been updated with additional details.