DOJ’s Claim That Trump Has No ‘Possessory Interest’ in Docs

  • The DOJ’s appeal to continue to review classified documents for its probe was rejected on Thursday.
  • A federal judge was not convinced that Trump couldn’t have “possessory interest” in the documents.
  • The judge could not accept DOJ’s claim until a special master review was completed.

A federal judge said she could not accept the Justice Department’s claim that Donald Trump does not “have a possessory interest” in some documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago just because they’re classified government records without further review by a third party.

On Thursday, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida appointed a special master to review more than 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in August and rejected the DOJ’s appeal that would have allowed the department to continue to use a set of classified records as part of its criminal investigation during that review. 

As part of her reasoning, Judge Cannon wrote in her decision that her court can’t accept the department’s claims that Trump should not have had the classified documents until the review by a special master is completed.

“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the Government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion,” Cannon wrote. 

Raymond Dearie, a former Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Eastern District Court of New York, was appointed to be the third-party reviewer. Cannon has given a deadline of November 30 to complete the review.

In her decision, Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, also wrote that she couldn’t accept the Justice Department’s argument that Trump doesn’t have a “plausible claim of privilege” of the classified documents without a third-party review.

Legal experts have previously raised doubts around Cannon’s judgment that Trump may have executive privilege over the records since the government owns the documents and since the Biden administration has declined to assert privilege over them.

Cannon’s order does however allow for the government to continue to review the documents “for purposes of intelligence classification and national security assessments.”