Turley says DoJ ‘overplayed their hand’ on special master motion; Mar-a-Lago search warrant much too broad

Noted constitutional attorney and George Washington law professor, Jonathan Turley, appeared on Fox News to discuss a court ruling in Donald Trump’s favor, which granted his request for the appointment of a special master in the disposition of documents that were seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

“I happen to think the decision is the correct one,” said Turley on Monday. “I think the most important thing that comes out of this decision is to offer some reassurance to millions of Americans about the purpose of the raid and also the handling of these documents. Many people do believe this was pretextual or political. This will help reassure them to some degree. You’ll have an independent person look at these classifications (and) make recommendations as to what can be returned.”

(Video: Fox News)

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon issued an extended order regarding the purview of the special master, which will review the seized property for “potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege.” As a result of the order, the DoJ is ordered to “temporarily” stop “reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes pending completion of the special master’s review or further Court order.”

Investigators are looking into Trump’s handling of classified material, particularly the documents he removed from the White House and brought to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving office in January 2021. They are also investigating him for possible obstruction of the investigation.

Turley had argued last week that the DoJ’s opposition to Trump’s request for a special master was specious. He continued in that vain regarding their weak argument in court Monday.

“I think that the Department of Justice blew this one in how they responded to this motion. They really overplayed their hand. They said that the appointment of a special master would threaten national security. And the court was quite surprised, noting that ‘special masters are appointed all the time… The documents are secure. You could get a master with clearance. How again is national security undermined?’ And they never really answered that question.”

Turley noted the limited nature of the good news for Trump, saying that the DoJ will still be able to complete their investigation, although not before the midterms. He said that the ruling makes it so that the government cannot rely on the seized documents, but then he laughed and said “they’ve already seen the documents.”

He also noted that the DoJ is “already interviewing witnesses” and can continue doing so.

It has been widely observed that the terms of the warrant were overbroad. Turley agrees.

“The fact is it would be a miracle if they were able to carry out this warrant and not gather privileged information. The warrant was absurdly broad. It said that even if you found one document with any classification marking, including confidential, you could take everything… stored with that box. It was perfectly bizarre because it allowed them to take virtually every document in storage. It also allowed them to take every document created during the Trump presidency,” which would almost certainly include privileged attorney/client material.

Sounds like Turley is alluding to something at least akin to illegal search and seizure.

It is not just executive privilege and attorney/client privilege that is at stake here. Judge Cannon alluded to the fact that the seized materials include “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information.”

In addition to “being deprived of potentially significant personal documents, which alone creates a real harm,” Cannon wrote in her decision that Trump faces an “unequitable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public.”

“As a function of plaintiff’s former position as president of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own,” Cannon continued. “A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.”

Turley warned that the charges are serious and that the Trump team should be very concerned. A defense attorney would carefully caution any defendant against these charges that “they are on a path towards prosecution.”

As for how things would unfold in the coming weeks and months, Turley said, “I would not expect an indictment after the midterm elections, if they were going to prosecute, to name Trump necessarily first. The way the Department of Justice usually moves is they look for lower-hanging fruit. They hit one of his aids very, very hard, and see if that aid flips and reaches a plea agreement.”


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