A United States judge has rejected the Justice Department’s request to allow investigators to continue reviewing classified documents seized from Donald Trump’s Florida home during an FBI search last month.
Judge Aileen Cannon said in a ruling late on Thursday that she will keep the temporary block in place until the files are vetted by an independent arbiter.
Separately, Cannon appointed veteran federal Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as the so-called “special master” to review the material for content that falls under attorney-client or executive privilege.
The Justice Department had appealed Cannon’s order to appoint a special master to assess the documents recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8.
But earlier this week, government lawyers said they did not oppose the suggestion from Trump’s legal team to appoint Dearie to the post.
Pending their appeal, prosecutors asked Cannon to lift her suspension of the review of the classified documents, but Cannon – a Trump appointee – sided with the former president on Thursday.
“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the Government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion,” she wrote.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents, and FBI agents recovered a trove of government files, including dozens of documents marked “classified”, in their search at Mar-a-Lago.
US prosecutors have argued that stopping the review of classified documents “will cause the most immediate and serious harms” to the US government and the public.
“The classified records – a discrete set of just over 100 documents – have already been segregated from the other seized records and are being maintained separately,” the Justice Department wrote in a filing to Cannon on September 8.