The Justice Department and former President Donald Trump’s legal team have found rare agreement in a potential candidate to serve as the special master tasked with reviewing the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.
Judge Raymond Dearie, whom Trump’s legal team put forward, is an acceptable option to serve as the third-party attorney to independently review the seized materials, the Justice Department said in a court filing Monday evening.
While it remains unclear when US District Judge Aileen Cannon will decide who will serve as the special master, here’s what you need to know about Dearie and the role he could play in the investigation.
Who is Raymond Dearie?
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 on the circuit.
He also served a seven-year term on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.
Dearie was one of the judges who approved an FBI and DOJ request to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, as part of the federal inquiry into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
The process that federal investigators used to secure the FISA warrants was riddled with errors and overall sloppiness, according to a DOJ inspector general report. Two of the four surveillance warrants granted by the secretive FISA court regarding Page have since been declared invalid – including one approved by Dearie in June 2017 – because of omissions and mistakes in the FBI’s submissions to the court.
The Trump team’s nomination of Dearie is notable because Trump has repeatedly criticized the FISA surveillance and has claimed – without evidence – that it was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign.
What role would Dearie play?
A special master is a third-party attorney appointed by a court to oversee part of a certain case.
The special master will oversee the Justice Department’s review of the evidence gathered from Trump’s Florida residence and resort and filter out privileged material that may have been seized in the search.
Trump and the Justice Department, however, have disagreed on other key aspects of the special master review, including how long it should take, who is responsible for paying for it, and what type of documents are subject to review.
Why does Trump want a special master?
Trump’s legal team has broadly argued that a special master is necessary to ensure the Justice Department returns any of his private documents seized during the search of Mar-a-Lago.
The former President’s attorneys said his constitutional rights were violated, and that there may have been privileged materials seized.
But in court filings, Trump has not elaborated on what exactly he hoped a special master would filter out, besides general allusions to “privileged and potentially privileged materials.”
Beyond Dearie, Trump’s legal team has suggested lawyer Paul Huck Jr., a former partner at the Jones Day law firm, as special master – a proposal the DOJ disagreed with, noting he “does not appear to have similar experience” to Dearie and two retired federal judges the department put forth.
The DOJ’s position
The Justice Department has put forward retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith.
“Each have substantial judicial experience, during which they have presided over federal criminal and civil cases, including federal cases involving national security and privilege concerns,” prosecutors wrote of Jones, Griffith and Dearie.
To date, Dearie is the only candidate both camps have agreed could serve as special master.
The Justice Department has argued that a special master shouldn’t touch any documents with classification markings and that the review shouldn’t include any executive privilege considerations.
The agency had challenged the need for a special master in court before Cannon sided with Trump. In legal filings, the DOJ said it had identified “a limited set of materials” from its search of documents taken from Mar-a-Lago that potentially contained material covered by attorney-client privilege and that it was already in the process of addressing privilege disputes.
The DOJ wants the special master to move relatively quickly, wrapping up its review in five weeks, by October 17. Trump has proposed 90 days.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.