WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former US President Donald Trump on Monday (Aug 22) asked a federal court to temporarily block the FBI from reviewing the materials it seized two weeks ago from his Florida home, until a special master can be appointed to oversee the review.
Trump’s court motion, filed in a federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, also demanded that the US Justice Department provide him with a more detailed property receipt outlining the items the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago home during its Aug 8 search, and asked investigators to return any items outside the scope of the search warrant.
“Politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice,” the filing says. “Law enforcement is a shield that protects Americans. It cannot be used as a weapon for political purposes,” it added.
A special master can sometimes be appointed in highly sensitive cases to go through seized materials and ensure that investigators do not review privileged information.
When FBI agents searched the homes of Trump’s former lawyers Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani, the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan requested the appointment of a special master.
Trump’s request was assigned to US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Trump appointed to the bench. A Justice Department spokesman said prosecutors will file their response in court.
“The Aug 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorised by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” spokesman Anthony Coley said.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the judge who approved the warrant, is weighing whether to require the Justice Department to release a redacted copy of the affidavit laying out evidence for probable cause to search Trump’s home.
The Justice Department at a court hearing last week opposed its release, saying it would provide a “roadmap” of its investigation and possibly chill witness cooperation.
In a court order filed earlier on Monday, Reinhart said he agreed those were legitimate concerns, but said he wants to explore whether there is a “less onerous alternative to sealing the entire document.”
The Justice Department has until noon on Thursday to provide him under seal a redacted copy of the document that he could potentially release to the public.
The Aug 8 search of Mar-a-Lago marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations Trump faces from his time in office and in private business.
After Trump and his allies complained in the media that the search was politically motivated, US Attorney General Merrick Garland asked the court to release a redacted copy of the search warrant and property receipt outlining the items taken.
The search is part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
During its search the FBI seized 11 sets of classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, some of which were labelled “top secret”- the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information and which can only be viewed in special government facilities.
It is unclear whether Trump waited too long to seek the appointment of a special master.
Last week, Trump released a redacted Aug 15 email he received from Jay Bratt, the department’s head of counterintelligence, who indicated he had deployed a “filter” team of agents tasked with weeding out privileged materials.