Judge Delivers Victory for DOJ, Dismisses Special Master
On Thursday, December 1, a three judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, dismissed the investigation of documents seized during the FBI’s August 8th Mar-a-Lago raid by a special master. The decision grants the Department of Justice access to thousands of documents that were blocked from them pending the review by a neutral arbiter and grants access that may aid in criminal investigations into the handling of the documents. The decision reflects the skepticism of the judges against the argument that former presidents are entitled to special masters when they bring classified documents to their private residence and keep the documents after their presidency ends. It also serves to reject the argument that former presidents may invoke attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. The special master, former judge Raymond Dearie, was first appointed on September 5th by Federal Judge Aileen Cannon. The appointment of a special master to review documents that may be shielded by executive privilege was an unprecedented legal development.
The FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago on August 8th sparked an intense debate about the role and power that former presidents retain after leaving office. Classified documents in the house of a private citizen would not warrant the appointment of a special master, in fact, the citizen would probably have been arrested and charged by this point. Instead, lawyers for Trump have asserted both attorney-client privilege and executive privilege over the documents, in a futile attempt to shield the former president. Notably, though Trump has repeatedly claimed that the documents were declassified, his lawyers have actively avoided the claim, even when Special Master Dearie pressed them about it specifically. Importantly, the US is a nation that observes the rule of law; where the no individual is above the law. That ideal is being tested in the face of this truly unprecedented situation. The manner in which this situation unfolds is a direct reflection of will to do what is right, legally and morally. The breach of national security is a serious offense and no exceptions should be made due to someone’s previous occupation, even if that job was being President.