WASHINGTON: A US judge on Saturday said it was her “preliminary intent” to grant former president Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to oversee a review of materials seized on Aug 8 from his Florida home during an FBI raid.

US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who was nominated by Trump in 2020, on Saturday also directed the Justice Department to submit under seal more details “specifying all property seized pursuant to the search warrant.”

Trump, in an Aug 22 speech, had also demanded the Justice Department provide him a more detailed property receipt outlining 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.

Cannon gave the government until Tuesday to file a response to Trump’s request for a special master and set a hearing for Thursday. Her order said she had not made a final determination on Trump’s request.

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.

The Justice Department has disclosed it was investigating Trump for removing White House records because it believed he illegally held documents including some involving intelligence-gathering and clandestine human sources — among America’s most closely held secrets.

In the affidavit, an unidentified FBI agent said the agency reviewed and identified 184 documents “bearing classification markings” containing “national defence information” after Trump in January returned 15 boxes of government records sought by the US National Archives.

The search was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed and kept documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and whether Trump tried to obstruct the probe.

Trump, a Republican who is considering another presidential run in 2024, has described the court-approved search at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach as politically motivated, and on Friday again described it as a “break-in.”

US Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans joining Congress’s probe of the assault on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, accused members of his party of “hypocrisy” for defending the former president’s handling of classified documents.

“The hypocrisy of folks in my party that spent years chanting lock her up about Hillary Clinton because of some deleted emails or quote unquote wiping a server are now out there defending a man who very clearly did not take the national security of the United States to heart,” Kinzinger said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trump and many other Republicans for years castigated his 2016 campaign rival former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having used a private email server for some official public communications, some of which contained classified information.

Trump has regularly led political rallies with supporters chanting “Lock her up.” Kinzinger and Representative Liz Cheney are the two Republicans on the nine-member House special committee investigating the deadly Jan 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and Trump’s activities surrounding that day.

Kinzinger, who opted not to seek re-election, said that either in upcoming hearings or in a formal committee report, there will be “more depth” revealed on Trump’s behavior during the riot. He added, “One of the more intriguing things is going to be some of the financing … a vast majority of this money was raised under ‘stop the steal’ with no intention of doing anything to stop the so-called steal.”

Trump falsely claims that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election through massive fraud, an assertion that has been rejected by several court rulings, the former president’s own Justice Department and even Republican-led investigations at the state level.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2022

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