Judge gives Trump until Friday to better explain why he wants a special master for the Mar-a-Lago documents

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida ordered Trump’s lawyers to outline their arguments for why the court has the ability to step in at this time, explain what exactly Trump is asking and whether the Department of Justice has received Trump’s statement. special master move.

Cannon also asked Trump’s team to consider any effect the request might have on a separate review by a magistrate judge on whether to release any part of the still-sealed FBI affidavit outlining the probable cause search.

The judge’s order shows many of the ways Trump’s complaint fell short of what would have been expected of a court filing seeking the appointment of a special master, especially in a search as high-profile as the one that run the FBI at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month

“What he’s saying is, ‘What are you doing in front of me?’ Mark Schnapp, a criminal defense attorney in Florida who spent seven years working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, told CNN.

Generally speaking, it is not outside the legal norm for Trump to want a special master involved in reviewing the evidence seized from his Florida residence. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, successfully sought the appointment of a special master when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and residences in 2018.

But Trump waited two weeks to make such a request, raising eyebrows over the length of the Justice Department’s likely process of reviewing what he seized at Mar-a-Lago. (For the review, the Justice Department uses what’s known as a “taint team,” which is a group of prosecutors not working on the investigation at hand who leak material that shouldn’t be turned over to investigators) .

And when Trump filed his request in court, the complaint relied heavily on political accusations, though it was light on the kind of legal argument that would explain to a court why it should intervene and what authority it had to do it. When Trump’s lawyers cited court rules they said gave the judge the authority to grant the request, they cited rules of civil procedure, with no explanation of why those rules should apply in a context related to a criminal search warrant.

Trump also did not file with the complaint the type of separate request, such as a motion for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, that would have accelerated the deadline for the judge to consider what Trump was asking.

Nor did Trump’s legal team present any depositions — namely, statements from attorneys who were said to have interacted with the Justice Department during the lead-up to and after the search — to support the agency’s factual claims. complaint

Instead, the complaint rebuts allegations about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling, while sensationally suggesting that the DOJ’s actions were motivated by a desire to hinder a Trump 2024 presidential bid. It also included the full text of a warning that Trump allegedly tried to deliver through his lawyers to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Schnapp said Trump’s filing Monday seemed more like a political message than a legal document.

“They didn’t really ask for anything. That’s the crazy thing,” Schnapp said. “They didn’t call for anything to be done in the immediate future to stop it, even though that’s what they said they would do”

Trump’s decision to file a separate case that was assigned to Judge Cannon, rather than file with the magistrate judge who signed the order, also caused confusion among outside legal experts. It appears that Trump’s lawyers even had procedural issues with the filing of the lawsuit and with their attempts to appear in the case.

The clerk posted a notice in the file stating that the complaint had been “conventionally filed” when it “should have been electronically filed,” according to local court rules.

Another notice from the secretary indicated that Trump’s lawyers seeking special admission to appear in the case because they were not barred from Florida also did not follow local rules in doing so. They were given another chance to enter their appearances correctly.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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