Legal expert predicts new special master will do a much better job at handling Trump case than Judge Cannon
Judge Aileen Cannon, Donald Trump (Photos: Creative Commons, Mandel Ngan for AFP)

A legal expert told MSNBC on Friday that she expects the new independent arbiter in the Mar-a-Lago case to be an improvement over the current judge, Aileen Cannon, who is a Trump appointee.

Cannon on Thursday named Raymond Dearie, a federal judge in New York, as the “special master” to sort through thousands of documents seized from Donald Trump's Florida estate and determine if any of them are protected by executive privilege.

"The good news about Judge Dearie is that he seems to know what he's doing, which is an improvement over the current judge," said Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor, during an appearance Friday on MSNBC.

The US Justice Department last week accepted this choice of candidate by Trump, who is behind the drive for a special master in the unprecedented case of the August 8 FBI raid on his seaside mansion.

"He was on the FISA court, which is the most important national security court that the federal judiciary has," Alksne explained. "So he knows a lot about executive privilege, he knows about national security issues, he's familiar with the documents, he has the clearance required or can certainly have it updated quickly, and he has a reputation as a solid judge. That's what this case needs."

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"I don't think for a minute it's the best route, because there's no reason for special master in this case," she added. "But the good news is that the special master is probably a better judge than the judge who sent the case over in the first place. So we're in a position where we have to just kind of make lemonade out of lemons and take advantage of the fact this is a good judge and he's able to handle the case."

Cannon has faced criticism from Trump's opponents for her rulings in favor of the former president. Last week, Cannon issued an injunction that barred the Justice Department from using any of the documents -- including the ones marked classified -- for its investigation while the special master conducted their review.

The department argued that a smaller set of 100 or so classified documents that are part of the reams of papers taken from Mar-a-Lago should first be given to criminal prosecutors investigating Trump, before they go to the special master.

The department filed suit to be able to resume looking at the classified papers right away.

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But in her ruling this Thursday, Cannon refused to lift any part of her injunction.

She rejected the Justice Department's argument that her injunction freezing the probe harmed national security.

Trump is facing mounting legal pressure, with the Justice Department saying top-secret documents were "likely concealed" to obstruct an FBI probe into his potential mishandling of classified materials.

He has denied all wrongdoing, saying the raid was "one of the most egregious assaults on democracy in the history of our country."

Government attorneys previously opposed Trump's special master request altogether, arguing that an independent screening for privileged material could harm national security, and was also unnecessary as a team had already completed a screening.

In addition to the documents probe, Trump faces investigations in New York into his business practices, as well as legal scrutiny over his efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election, and for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

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With additional reporting by AFP