A federal judge on Thursday told former President Trump’s legal team that it doesn’t have to obey an order from a special master demanding proof of their claims that the FBI planted evidence when agents raided Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last month.
The order from U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, said the special master exceeded his authority when he ordered Mr. Trump’s legal team to affirm the accuracy of the FBI’s inventory before reviewing the records themselves.
“There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the seized materials. … The Court’s Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation,” Judge Cannon wrote.
She also extended the timeline for the special master, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, to review the 11,000 documents seized during the Aug. 8 raid of Mr. Trump’s South Florida residence.
Judge Dearie now has until Dec. 16 to complete the review, beyond the initial deadline of Nov. 30.
Judge Cannon said the extra time is necessary for the special master to review the documents because the case has become more complicated since his appointment.
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The ruling is a huge win for Mr. Trump, whose legal strategy has been centered around dragging out the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into whether or not he mishandled classified documents when he left office.
With the extended deadline, some of the most critical court filings from the Trump team won’t come until after the November midterms.
That includes filings designating which documents that Mr. Trump’s lawyers say are protected by attorney-client or executive privilege, which would render them off limits to Justice Department investigators.
Judge Dearie had ordered the privilege documents to come in on a rolling basis.
The ruling by Judge Cannon, who is based in Palm Beach, Florida, is the first test of the special master’s authority.
Judge Cannon appointed Judge Dearie, who was acceptable to both sides and is tasked with reviewing the seized documents to decide which ones are protected by privilege, at the behest of Mr. Trump.
However, Judge Dearie has been far more critical of Mr. Trump’s legal team. Last week he told Mr. Trump’s attorneys they could no longer suggest the FBI may have planted evidence unless they backed it up with evidence.
But since Judge Cannon appointed the special master, she is the final word on what he can and cannot do.