When former President Donald Trump went to court against the Justice Department to stall the federal investigation into classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, a district judge he appointed, Aileen Cannon, granted Trump everything he asked for, appointing a special master to review the documents for executive privilege even though no legal precedent grants a former president privilege over national security documents, and effectively blocking the DOJ from conducting a national security review until the special master's work is complete.
Now, the special master himself, Senior Judge Raymond Dearie of Brooklyn, is rebuking Cannon for a decision that hamstrings a key function of the job she assigned him to do, in a filing published by Just Security. Specifically, he is taking issue with her rescinding his authority to issue interim reports as he conducts his review — and saying her reasoning for this made no sense.
"In the original Appointing Order, the Court directed that 'the Special Master shall submit interim reports and recommendations as appropriate. Upon receipt and resolution of any interim reports and recommendations, the Court will consider prompt adjustments to the Court’s orders as necessary,'" said the filing. "However, the Court later struck that language as part of its order implementing an unrelated ruling by the Eleventh Circuit. As the language quoted above as to interim reports and adjustments to prior orders is consistent with the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling and the efficient administration of the Appointing Order as amended, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the Court issue an order reinstating that language."
This comes after a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit, two of whom were also Trump appointees, reversed the portion of Cannon's order blocking the DOJ from access to documents that were marked classified. The special master review will continue for the unclassified documents.
Dearie was mutually agreed to as the best choice of special master by Trump and the DOJ. According to previous reports, Trump was hoping that because Dearie previously served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court, and because that court was at the center of a long-running Fox News talking point about the FBI supposedly abusing power in the Russia investigation, that Dearie would automatically view the FBI and DOJ as corrupt and be a sympathetic to him.
So far, however, Trump's hopes haven't panned out. At the first special master hearing, Dearie aggressively pushed Trump's legal team to take a position on the former president's repeated claims he can declassify top secret documents without telling anyone — and made clear he takes the DOJ at its word that documents labeled classified are, in fact, classified.