DOJ and Trump every proposed devoted masters for the Mar-a-Lago probe. Listed below are the four nominees
The Justice Department and former President Donald Trump’s attorneys each proposed two choices to a federal judge for who should serve as a “special master” in the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge presiding over the case, earlier this week granted the former president’s request to appoint an independent attorney, known as a Special Master, to review the materials — including more than 100 classified documents — independently to examine – which the FBI has seized in his residence and resort in Florida.
Trump’s legal team has argued that the Justice Department cannot be trusted to conduct its own review of potentially privileged material that should be isolated from the criminal investigation. The Justice Department on Thursday appealed the court-ordered master’s special exam, arguing that the order endangered U.S. national security.
Cannon said she will decide “quickly” on “exact details and mechanics” of the special master’s process after both sides submit their proposals, but it’s not clear when the judge will rule or what form that decision will take.
Here are the four people who have been nominated as special masters in the dueling suggestions:
Thomas Griffith, a retired federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals from 2005-2020. In one of his last major decisions before retiring, he authored the Majority Opinion opposing House Democrats’ attempt to subpoena Trump’s former White House Counsel Don McGahn. (The decision was later reversed.)
In the years since his retirement, Griffith has co-authored a report with other prominent conservative lawyers and officials debunking Trump’s lies about massive fraud in the 2020 election. And he publicly supported President Joe Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court.
Barbara Jones, another retired federal judge appointed by Clinton, is a former federal prosecutor and retired judge for the Southern District of New York from 1995 to 2012. She brings a wealth of special masters experience, having recently served in that position for three high-profile criminal investigations with political implications.
She was assigned as a special supervisor to investigate materials seized during an FBI raid on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in April 2021. She also served as special supervisor on the Michael Cohen case, making sure investigators didn’t sweep up documents that were privileged attorneys. Both Giuliani and Cohen were Trump’s attorneys while under investigation by the Justice Department.
More recently, Jones was the special foreman investigating materials the FBI had seized from Project Veritas, a right-wing group that often targets Democrats and media organizations with covert stabs. Jones was brought in to review materials for the first amendment and counsel-client deliberations.
Huck, who has his own law practice, was a partner at the Jones Day law firm, which represented the Trump campaign in 2016, and an associate at the conservative legal organization Federalist Society.
Huck was also previously Assistant Attorney General for Florida and General Counsel to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist — who was a Republican at the time but has served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives and is the Democratic nominee for Florida governor. Chris Kise, Trump’s current attorney, also worked for Crist and overlapped with Huck. They worked together in the Florida Attorney General’s office.
Huck’s wife, Barbara Lagoa, was on Trump’s shortlist to run for the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Dearie, a Reagan nominee, has served as a federal judge in New York since 1986. He retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge in the county.
Dearie also served a seven-year term on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. He was one of the judges who approved an FBI and Justice Department request for surveillance of Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, as part of the federal probe into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
The process federal investigators used to secure the FISA warrants was fraught with error and general negligence, according to a general report by the DOJ inspector. Two of the four surveillance orders the secretive FISA court issued regarding Page have since been invalidated — including one approved by Dearie in June 2017 — due to omissions and errors in FBI filings in court.
The Trump team’s nomination of Dearie is notable because Trump has repeatedly criticized FISA surveillance and claimed – without evidence – that it was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign.