U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed a special master to determine which of the documents that the FBI retrieved from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month were privileged — if any — has overruled an order from the special master that sought to clarify Trump’s claims that the classified documents may have been “planted” by the FBI.
Judge Raymond Dearie, who was nominated to be special master by Trump’s legal team and appointed to the position by Cannon earlier this month, had ordered Trump’s lawyers to examine the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) inventory list of documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago and to indicate if they disagreed with what was included — essentially ordering them to explicitly state whether they agreed with Trump’s unfounded claims that documents had been planted by the FBI during the retrieval process.
Trump’s lawyers objected to the order earlier this week. On Thursday, Cannon ruled in their favor, saying that the requirement was unnecessary. This is the first time since Cannon appointed Dearie that she has rejected one of his orders.
That Cannon overturned a decree from the special master who she herself appointed — and sided with a president who appointed her to the role she currently serves — has raised eyebrows, especially since a number of legal experts have concluded that there was no need for a special master in the first place.
Cannon has also extended the timeframe for Dearie to carry out his work as special master — a move that is being celebrated by Trump’s allies, as his legal team’s strategy thus far seems to be to delay the process as much as possible.
The DOJ has reportedly filed a notice of appeal to Cannon’s order, seeking to keep Dearie’s requirements intact and to shorten the timeframe of his work, requesting that it end in November rather than in mid-December.
It’s not yet clear if Cannon’s rejection of the special master’s order will delay the DOJ’s investigation. The Justice Department will still be able to carry out some of its work, as it appealed to a different aspect of Cannon’s order establishing the special master that required them to stop examining the classified documents they retrieved last month.
The DOJ was successful in that appeal, persuading a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court that her order was unnecessary since the classified documents in question were the property of the U.S. government, not Trump.
“[Trump] does not have a possessory interest in the documents at issue, so he does not suffer a cognizable harm if the United States reviews documents he neither owns nor has a personal interest in,” the 11th Circuit Court ruled.
Several legal experts and political observers have denounced Cannon’s latest action on social media.
“Judge Cannon comes to Trump’s rescue, saving him from the Special Master she appointed at his request. She’s basically one of Trump’s lawyers at this point,” political analyst Arieh Kovler said on Twitter.
“Judge Cannon tinkers badly with (and with typos) Judge Dearie’s scheduling order, relieving Trump of obligation to say whether docs were planted, even though she had wanted a clear inventory of what was found,” noted Andrew Weissmann, a former Assistant United States Attorney. “She is such a disgrace.”
“OUTRAGEOUS. Yes, I know I’m shouting,” wrote former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. “I don’t do it often, but [the order from] Judge Cannon is shocking.”