U.S. District Court Judge Eileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida ordered Trump’s lawyers to outline their arguments for why they can enter court at this time, explain exactly what Trump is asking and whether Trump’s service has been served on the Justice Department. Special master movement.
Cannon asked Trump’s team to weigh any effect the request might have on a separate review by a magistrate judge on whether to release any portions of the still-sealed FBI affidavit establishing probable cause for the search.
The judge’s order in many ways fell short of what Trump’s complaint filed in court filings seeking the appointment of a special master — particularly the FBI — had been expected. Mar-a-Lago earlier this month
“What she’s saying is, ‘What are you doing in front of me?'” Florida criminal prosecutor Mark Schnapp, who worked for seven years in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida, told CNN.
In general, Trump’s desire to have a special counsel review the evidence seized from his Florida home is not outside the scope of the law. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, requested the appointment of a special master when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and residence in 2018.
But Trump waited two weeks to make such a request, raising eyebrows because of how far along the judicial review of the seizure at Mar-a-Lago is. (For review, the Justice Department uses what’s called a “taint team,” a group of prosecutors who don’t work on the investigation in question to filter out material that shouldn’t be turned over to investigators.)
When Trump filed his request in court, the complaint leaned heavily on political charges, while being light on legal arguments explaining to the court why it should intervene and what authority it has. While Trump’s attorneys cited court rules that gave a judge the authority to grant the request, they cited civil procedure rules without any explanation as to why those rules should be applied in the context of a criminal search warrant.
Trump did not file a separate request with the complaint — such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction — which would have sped up the timeline for the judge to consider what Trump is asking for.
Trump’s legal team has not filed any declarations — that is, statements from lawyers who allegedly contacted the Justice Department during the investigation — to support the complaint’s factual claims.
Instead, the complaint retreads allegations about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling, while sensationalizing that the DOJ’s actions were motivated by a desire to thwart Trump’s 2024 presidential election. It includes the full text of the warning that Trump allegedly tried to deliver to Attorney General Merrick Garland through his lawyers.
Schnapp said Trump’s filing on Monday was more like a political message than a legal document.
“They didn’t really ask for anything. That’s the madness,” Schnapp said. “Even though they say they’re going to do it, they’re not asking you to do anything in the immediate future to delay it.”
Trump’s move to file a separate case assigned to Judge Cannon, instead of filing the request with the magistrate judge who signed the warrant, sparked confusion among outside legal experts. Trump’s lawyers appear to have run into procedural difficulties in filing the suit and even attempting to appear in court.
According to local rules of court, the clerk affixed a notice to the docket indicating that the complaint was “regularly filed” when it was “required to be filed electronically.”
Another announcement by the author indicated that Trump lawyers seeking special permission to appear in the case also failed to follow local rules because they were not barred from Florida. They were given another chance to enter their appearance correctly.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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