Judgment reserved in Trump search case

Former president requested third party to review documents seized by FBI agents

A federal judge declined to rule on Thursday after hearing arguments on Donald Trump’s request for a neutral third party to review documents seized from the former president’s home by FBI agents seeking classified records.

US district judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said she would issue an order later as the hearing in West Palm Beach, Florida, ended. Judge Cannon had issued a preliminary order over the weekend saying she was leaning toward granting his request.

The justice department had argued Mr Trump had no right to such a review, and that allowing one now would be unprecedented because the seized documents — many of them highly classified — do not belong to him.

“He is no longer the president, Jay Bratt, the justice department’s counter-intelligence chief, told the judge. “And because he is no longer the president, he did not have the right to take those documents. He was unlawfully in possession of them.


Trump’s new criminal defence attorney, Christopher Kise, accused the government of exaggerating the threat posed by Trump and his possession of the documents.

“What we’re talking about are presidential records in the hands of the former president of the United States, Kise said. “This is not a case about some Department of Defence staffer stuffing papers in a bag and sneaking out in the middle of the night.”

Lawyers for both sides used the hearing to reiterate arguments made in their filings with the court, with the government saying a special master will delay a crucial investigation and Trump’s lawyers saying a neutral review will restore faith in the justice department.

Trump asked for the appointment of a special master after FBI agents seized roughly 20 boxes of documents from his Mar-a-Lago resort and home on August 8th after securing a search warrant from the same court. The stash included 11 sets of classified documents, including some labelled with the highest top-secret rating, the department has said.

The records were taken by Trump from the White House after he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

The case is rooted in Trump’s voluntarily return of 15 boxes of records in January after months of negotiations with the National Archives. The Archives found highly classified documents in the trove and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which began an investigation to determine if Trump had more such materials in his possession. (Bloomberg)