Legal experts raise doubts about a judge’s ruling over the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents


Mar-a-Lago a week after the FBI raided the home of former President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • A federal judge ruled a “special master” should be appointed to review the Mar-a-Lago documents.

  • Experts questioned the decision, particularly the view Trump might have executive-privilege claims.

  • The ruling will likely delay the FBI’s inquiry into Trump’s handling of classified information.

A federal judge’s decision Monday to appoint an independent official to review the documents hidden from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort surprised legal experts.

The ruling by Judge Aileen Cannon could delay the FBI’s investigation into the former president’s decision to move government records, including highly classified information, to his home in Florida after leaving office.

Attorneys and former federal officials picked apart Cannon’s ruling, with many focusing on her view that Trump might be able to assert executive privilege over some of the records and withhold them from the Justice Department.

Executive privilege is a legal concept allowing presidents to shield records of private deliberations with advisors from Congress and courts but has not been used before by a former president to shield records from the current executive branch. A “special master” is set to review the 11,000 documents retrieved by the FBI to see if any fall into this category.

The current government is the legal owner of all government records, and the Biden administration has declined to assert privilege over any of the material Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago or withhold it from investigators.

“I don’t think a special master makes sense in connection with executive privilege material,” William Barr, who served as attorney general under Trump, told Reuters.

He added: “If the documents are subject to executive privilege they involve official deliberations about executive actions,

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