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Veteran New York judge named as arbiter in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe

Donald Trump
Posted at 7:18 PM, Sep 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 19:18:28-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has appointed a veteran New York jurist to serve as an independent arbiter and review records seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Florida home last month.

The selection of Raymond Dearie, a former federal prosecutor who for years served as the chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, came after both the Justice Department and Trump's lawyers made clear that they would be satisfied with his appointment as a so-called special master.

In that role, Dearie will be responsible for reviewing the documents taken during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and segregating out any that may be covered by claims of privilege. It is not clear how long the work will take but the special master process has already delayed the investigation, with a judge in Florida directing the Justice Department to temporarily pause core aspects of its probe.

The Justice Department is investigating the hoarding of top-secret materials and other classified documents at the Florida property after Trump left office. The FBI says it recovered more than 11,000 documents from the home during its Aug. 8 search, including over 100 with classification markings.

Trump's lawyers had asked last month for a judge to name a special master to do an independent review of the records and segregate any that may be covered by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department argued the appointment was unnecessary, saying it had already done its own review and Trump had no right to raise executive privilege claims that ordinarily permit the president to withhold certain information from the public and Congress.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, disagreed and directed both sides to name potential candidates for the role. She also ordered the Justice Department to halt its review of the documents for investigative purposes until "further Court order" or until the special master completes their review.

The Trump team recommended either Dearie or a Florida lawyer for the job. The Justice Department said that, in addition to the two retired judges whose names it submitted, it would also be satisfied with a Dearie appointment.

Dearie served as the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York from 1982 to 1986, at which point he was appointed to the federal bench by then-President Ronald Reagan. He has also served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes Justice Department wiretap applications in investigations involving suspected agents of a foreign power.

He took senior status in 2011, but the Justice Department has said he remains active and had indicated to officials that he was available for the position and could work expeditiously if appointed to it.