A federal judge on Monday granted former President Donald Trump’s request for an independent arbitrator known as a special master to review documents seized from his Florida home during an FBI search last month.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling is a victory for Trump in his legal battle with the government over sensitive documents he removed from the White House and stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
According to the ruling, the government will be temporarily barred from reviewing the documents until the special master completes his review. A separate security review conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to determine whether national security has been compromised will be allowed to proceed.
The federal government is investigating whether Trump may have broken the law by mishandling classified documents. The FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents during its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, including some marked top secret. The search followed months of negotiations over the documents.
While allowing a special master to examine the documents may slow down the government’s investigation, it is unlikely to shape its final outcome.
Trump had requested a freeze on further investigation of the documents until a third-party auditor could determine whether certain parts should be excluded due to executive or attorney-client privilege.
Cannon, a Trump appointee, ruled in his favor over the Justice Department’s objection. The DoJ has already completed its own review of the documents and said it found a small number of documents that should be excluded.
Trump faces other legal issues as he considers another bid for the White House in 2024. The Justice Department is also under pressure to investigate his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, and a grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether he and those around him broke the law by trying to overturn the result of the state’s 2020 presidential election.