Judge announces Special Master and retains block on Mar-a-Lago files pending review

Just yesterday, federal judge Aileen Cannon declined to lift any part of an order she issued last week.

The order barred the Department of Justice from using records obtained by the FBI during their raid on Trump's estate, Mar-a-Lago, until an appointed arbiter, known as a Special Master, had completed a review.

Judge Cannon had appointed semi-retired judge Raymond J. Dearie as Special Master, who has the authority to sift through the documents and set aside using any that potentially were covered by attorney-client privilege or, in a legally disputed move, executive privilege. 

The DOJ had asked Judge Cannon to lift restrictions on its use of documents with classification markings and set a Thursday deadline for her to respond.  The DOJ says it will ask an appeals court to intervene.

The move was a blow to the DOJ's investigation, whose stated goal is to verify whether Trump unlawfully retained national defense records or obstructed repeated attempts by federal officials to retrieve them.

While Judge Cannon's order was a victory for Trump, she also made some concessions to the DOJ.

The Special Master has a deadline of Nov. 30 to complete his review.

The FBI can continue to investigate "the movement and storage of seized materials, including documents marked as classified, without discussion of their contents."

Trump would bear the entire cost of the Special Master's compensation and expenses, along with the cost of support staff or advisers.

So let's suspend our disbelief and hypothesize the following scenarios that favor the FBI and the DOJ:

  • Assume that the FBI were certain of Trump's guilt — i.e., they were sure he was in possession of classified documents and state secrets.
  • Assume that they were unaware of the existence of these documents before.  Perhaps they did an inventory review of the documents after Trump left the White House but no record of the Mar-a-Lago documents.
  • Assume that a whistleblower informed the DOJ about the documents with a warning that Trump was about to sell the documents to the highest bidder in the next few days.  Trump waited for so long because his buyers couldn't agree on the price.

Let's even accept the claim from Democrats that the goal behind the raid wasn't political, but instead to ensure that national security isn't compromised.

How would the FBI conduct the raid if they were certain of guilt and if their goal wasn't politics?

They would have presented Trump's lawyers with the warrant and supporting documents that allowed the lawyer to examine and ask questions.  They would have insisted that Trump's lawyers accompany them at every juncture of the raid.  They would have been transparent at every stage — when they rifled through Melania's wardrobe and cracked open Trump's personal safe.  They would have made a video of every stage of the raid and shared the unedited footage with Trump's lawyers.

Once the classified documents were obtained, they would have shown them to the lawyers.

They would have released a statement highlighting the kind of documents that were obtained and announced a swift investigation

But nothing of the kind occurred.

They arrived on the property, but they didn't allow Trump's lawyers to read the warrant.  They asked staffers to turn off the security cameras.  They didn't allow Trump's lawyers to accompany them during the operation.  They seized documents unsupervised.  When they released the affidavit that was supposed to provide the reasoning for the Mar-a-Lago raid, it was heavily redacted.  Even the portions citing the reason for the redaction were redacted.

Back to hypothetical scenarios that favor the FBI.

Let's assume that the leadership of the FBI and the DOJ learned the political motives of the raid conducted.  Perhaps the raid was planned, conceived, and conducted by rogue agents who falsified their motives to mislead everyone, including Attorney General Merrick Garland.

How would the FBI and the DOJ have reacted?

The FBI would have insisted on transparency and the presence of a neutral party — a Special Master who reviewed the documents process — because they have nothing to hide and no political motive.

The arbiter would be able to independently verify the presence or absence of classified documents, which would strengthen their investigation, if fact-finding were the goal.   

So what happened in reality?

The FBI appealed against the appointment of a Special Master by a federal judge.

Despite the fact that the Special Master isn't going to impede their investigation, he is merely going to review the documents. 

The DOJ seems unwilling to allow an independent reviewer and is planning to appeal the ruling to retain the Special Master.

Do they fear disclosure of the truth because they have something to hide?

Now for the reality.

What was the motive behind the raid, the redaction of the affidavit, and the pushback against the Special Master?

The goal is to purposefully create a vacuum of mystery around the raid.  They know that the news will fill the void with myriad fabrications.

The Washington Post was the first to fabricate.

The paper claimed that the FBI were looking for classified documents related to nuclear weapons during their raid.  The sources were obviously anonymous, and the details and proof were absent.  But the lie traveled around the U.S. and is being used to justify the raid.  

Some "experts" have called the raid Trump's Al Capone moment — i.e., a situation where a crime boss is found guilty not for his crimes, but instead for process violations.

The peddlers of these lies are cautious to place question marks at the end of their allegations, although, at times, they do not.

In time, they will claim that the "walls are closing in," and Trump could be indicted soon, but no proof will be provided.

This will continue all through the 2024 election and perhaps even after Trump is elected.

These relentless witch hunts and the narrative-building have destroyed the central tenet of the justice system: the presumption of innocence.

Currently, Trump and his supporters have no such rights.  They are guilty until proven innocent.  Even if proven innocent, the power will deliberately frame the exoneration vaguely.  They claim that no proof of wrongdoing was discovered, which implies that unlawful acts may have occurred, but the evidence was destroyed.  The cloud of doubt continues to hover, which enables a thousand conspiracy theories to float.

Sadly, mainstream historians are also quite likely to cover the events from the perspective of the conspiracy theorists. 

The following is an example:

It was endorsed by a retired USAF four-star general and former director of the CIA and director of the NSA.

Draining this swamp is going to take a brave, prolonged, and committed effort.

It seems like a near impossibility.  But we can still hope!

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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