Trump, DOJ propose candidates to serve as special master in review of documents


An aerial view of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. August 15, 2022.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump and the Justice Department on Friday each put forth two candidates to serve as a court-appointed special master who would examine documents seized from Mar-a-Lago documents, while staking out vastly different positions on the scope of the potential review.

In a new court filing, the Justice Department proposed Barbara S. Jones, a retired judge nominated by former President Bill Clinton, and Thomas B. Griffith, a retired appeals court judge who was nominated by former President George W. Bush.

Jones is now a partner at Bracewell LLP, where she focuses on internal investigations, arbitrations and mediations, and has served as a special master in at least two cases related to search warrants.

Griffith is a special counsel at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, has focused on appellate litigation and congressional and internal investigations and is a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

Trump’s legal team proposed Raymond J. Dearie, a former federal judge nominated by former President Ronald Reagan, and Paul Huck Jr., former general counsel to then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist who once served as the state’s deputy attorney general.

Dearie also served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, while Huck is the founder of a law firm and a former partner at Jones Day.

Both sides will respond to the other’s proposed candidates on Monday.

The Friday court filing also spelled areas of disagreement between Trump and the Justice Department over the scope of the potential document review.

Trump’s attorneys have pressed for the special master to have access to all seized materials, including documents with classification markings. They also have insisted the special master should determine whether executive privilege applies, without having to consult with the National Archives and Records Administration.

The Justice Department opposes those parameters, arguing that any claims of executive privilege should be submitted to the National Archives.

The court filing comes just days after Trump scored an early courtroom victory when a federal judge approved his request for a third-party to review the seized material for potential attorney-client or executive privilege concerns.

That ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, also temporarily blocked parts of the Justice Department’s investigation.

Documents seized by FBI from Mar-a-Lago

Source: Department of Justice

The Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday that it will appeal Cannon’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Legal experts largely criticized Cannon’s ruling, saying implementation of her order would be extremely difficult if not impossible, while also taking issue with her argument that the special master should review the documents for potential executive privilege claims, instead of limiting the examination to traditional attorney-client issues.

If a special master is appointed by the court, that individual will review documents the Justice Department said are so sensitive and classified that FBI agents and DOJ attorneys needed additional security clearances to review them.

The Justice Department says FBI agents last month found more than 11,000 pages of government documents that — under the Presidential Records Act — belonged in the custody of the National Archives.

While Trump’s legal team has argued that “unchecked investigators” could not be trusted to separate out privileged documents, the Justice Department has maintained that the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago belong to the government and are not Trump’s “personal records.”


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