A federal judge on Monday ordered a halt to the Justice Department’s review of materials seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, describing a threat to institutions and the risk of media leaks that could cause harm to Trump.
“Plaintiff faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public,” U.S District Court Judge Aileen Cannon wrote in a 24-page ruling issued on Labor Day.
Cannon’s order included permitting a so-called special master to review the seized materials for potential attorney-client and executive privilege. Prosecutors expressed exasperation at Trump’s demand to review for executive privilege, noting that there is no precedent for a former executive to assert privilege to bar review of materials by a sitting executive branch — particularly when the government has determined the need is urgent.
Cannon, a Trump appointee who was confirmed a week after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, gave the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers until Sept. 9 to submit a joint filing to propose a list of special master candidates and outlining their duties and limitations. In the meantime, Cannon ruled that the documents would not be returned to Trump.
The Justice Department indicated that if Cannon were to make a ruling of this kind, she should formally enjoin the department, a format that would permit an appeal. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.