Who can be special master in Mar-a-Lago documents review?


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation) — Following a federal judge’s decision to appoint a special master to oversee the handling of documents collected during an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, many have been left wondering: what would a special master do?

David Cohen, an Ohio-based attorney who has served as a special master in civil and criminal cases for 20 years, said a special master is just kind of a fancy term for a “judge’s helper.”

He said special masters should be consistent, open-minded and honest. But choosing one in a case of this magnitude may be a challenge.

“It’s less than half the time, I would say that (the attorneys) come to an agreement on who the special master is,” Cohen said. “And that’s for the simple reason that they want rulings to go in their favor. And they think someone’s opinion might be more favorable than somebody else’s.”

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Monday granted former President Donald Trump’s request that a special master, or independent third party, review the documents obtained by the FBI in the August search of Mar-a-Lago. That ruling can still be appealed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by then-President Trump, concluded, “…the investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public, and the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness.”

The U.S. government argued the request was unwarranted on the grounds they already had a team review the document and that doing so again would slow down their criminal investigation.

Since the search of his Florida estate, Trump has railed against the FBI and Justice Department. In his first speech since the search of his home, Trump caused the search “an abuse of power.”

“The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters,” he said.

Last week, the public got the most detailed look yet at what the FBI found 48 empty folders with classified markings and more than 100 classified documents. 

When it comes to the special master, that person will likely be a former judge or lawyer and both sides will offer possible candidates. Due to the sensitivity of the documents, the special master will likely need a top secret security clearance.

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