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Trump the Master

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September 16, 2022 10:10 a.m.

Important context here from TPM Reader and Alum WT

Cannon’s order denying the DOJ’s stay request is insane enough that it seems to have overshadowed the other thing she did yesterday: issuing the attached “order appointing a special master.” The actual details of the order are gobsmackingly bad: the order neuters Dearie’s authority before the process begins, boxes in the DOJ, and puts Trump’s counsel in the driver’s seat of the entire process.

Normally, a special master would step in as a neutral party to sort out privilege matters — essentially, he would do the same thing that DOJ’s taint team did, but with the imprimatur of impartiality. This means a special master reviews the documents, identifies those where privilege might arise, and then consults with the party to come to a resolution on whether privilege exists or not (ruling on the matter if the parties can’t agree). Cannon’s this order subverts that setup, giving Trump’s counsel a lead role in the process and consigning the special master to a backseat role.

Pages 3-5 are worth a look. Cannon imposes an insane “precise workflow” that gives Trump’s team full access to all of the seized documents, including the classified ones, and then allows Trump to sort the documents into four buckets. The four buckets are designed to block the DOJ from continuing to make some of the major arguments raised in its briefing — namely, that many of the seized documents are government records not subject to the PRA. The special master only weighs in afterwards this review, and Cannon goes out of her way to make explicit that she will review all of his decisions de novo (aka without any deference to his recommendations). On top of all this, Cannon instructs the DOJ to secure all necessary clearances for Trump’s team — which, if WaPo’s reporting is to be believed, means reading his lawyers into a cabinet-level SCI compartment usually cleared for only a handful of people.

Honestly, there’s barely a reason to appoint a special master if this is going to be the process. Which, of course, is presumably what Cannon wants.

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