Criminal Justice

Trump requests special master for review of documents seized by FBI

  • Print

AP Trump Mar-a-Lago

The entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is shown Aug. 8 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump said in a lengthy statement the FBI had conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate and asserted that agents had broke open a safe. Photo by Terry Renna/The Associated Press.

Former President Donald Trump has asked a federal court to temporarily prevent the FBI from reviewing items it seized from his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, until a special master can be appointed in the case.

Trump, in an Aug. 22 motion filed by his lawyers in the Southern District of Florida, also asked that the federal government be required to provide a detailed receipt for seized property and to return any items that did not fall under the scope of the search warrant.

“Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans,” according to the motion. “It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes. Therefore, we seek judicial assistance in the aftermath of an unprecedented and unnecessary raid” on Trump’s home.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters have coverage.

On Aug. 8, “in a shockingly aggressive move—and with no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans,” FBI agents, under the authority of the U.S. Department of Justice, seized documents, potentially privileged materials and items, including photos, notes and Trump’s passports, “that were outside the lawful reach of an already-overbroad warrant,” Trump’s motion says.

Trump also contends in the motion that the “government has declined to provide even the most basic information about what was taken or why,” and that “the scant information the government has provided—a vaguely worded receipt for property and the warrant itself—raises significant Fourth Amendment questions.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in a press conference Aug. 11 that the DOJ filed a motion to unseal the search warrant and property receipt relating to the search of Trump’s home in light of his confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the “substantial public interest in this matter.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart of Florida, who approved the warrant, is also considering whether to require the DOJ to release a redacted copy of the affidavit that outlined evidence for probable cause to search Trump’s home. According to Reuters, the DOJ has until Thursday to provide Reinhart with the document.

In Trump’s motion, he points out that courts have called in special masters to impartially review seized materials after search warrants have been executed at attorneys’ offices. He says those situations involved “similar matters of privilege with far less historic importance.”

“Merely ‘adequate’ safeguards are not acceptable when the matter at hand involves not only the constitutional rights” of Trump “but also the preservation of executive privilege,” according to the motion.

DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley told Reuters that prosecutors would respond to Trump’s motion in court, but “the Aug. 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “The Master Plan: Judicial Division leads effort to increase use of special masters”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.