Trump special master deadline extended until Dec. 16 by judge

President Trump pictured from the shoulders up, gesturing as he speaks into a microphone
President Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Cincinnati last month. The fight over potentially privileged materials seized from his Florida home will be delayed by two weeks under the new deadline.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

A federal judge in Florida has extended the timeline for the review of documents seized from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, delaying the fight over whether any materials are privileged by an additional two weeks.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, citing delays in hiring a vendor to scan the 11,000 documents at issue, ruled in an order Thursday that the special master overseeing the review, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, would have until Dec. 16 to complete his work. Dearie originally faced a Nov. 30 deadline.

Trump had sought a longer review from the start, and the Justice Department wanted a tighter schedule.

Cannon also sided with Trump in his objection to Dearie’s proposal that his legal team separately verify the accuracy of a government list of items FBI agents seized during the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Florida residence. The raid was part of a federal investigation into whether government records were mishandled.

The special master in the Trump Mar-a-Lago records case sets a brisk timetable, meaning this portion of the dispute could be settled by late October.

Sept. 23, 2022

Dearie wanted Trump’s lawyers to identify any item on the list if they disputed the government’s description of the contents or where it was found. Following the search, Trump and his allies floated the unsupported claim that FBI agents might have planted some documents. Cannon’s order means Trump won’t face an immediate deadline to formally lodge any such allegations against the government.


Cannon wrote that if the parties wanted to raise issues later related to the accuracy of the inventory log, they could bring those to Dearie.

Reviewing privilege

The special master’s job is to hear disagreements between Trump and the Justice Department over whether the documents include materials that are personal or should be covered by privileges that protect attorney-client communications and internal executive branch deliberations. His review won’t include roughly 100 documents that the government says contain classified markings, after a federal appeals court ruling sided with the Justice Department on that issue.

Dearie had proposed having the parties go through the remaining 11,000 documents — totaling approximately 200,000 pages, according to Trump’s lawyers — and identify disputes over how to categorize the materials on a rolling basis, laying out a schedule that called for the documents to be divided into batches.

Cannon disagreed with the veteran jurist’s approach, and instead directed Trump’s lawyers to take three weeks to go through all of the documents and submit one comprehensive list of how they would characterize them to the government. That timeline would take the review into early November.

A single log from Trump would “avoid confusion and enhance organization and clear deadlines,” Cannon wrote.

Once Trump gives that list to the government, the parties will have 10 days to meet and identify where they don’t agree and to submit a list of disputes to Dearie.

The special master will go through those disputes and prepare a report with recommendations to Cannon, who will make the final call about whether any documents should be shielded from investigators.