Federal Judge Aileen Cannon, rejected the Justice Department’s request to resume into its inquiry into former President Trump’s handling of sensitive government records. Instead, the judge appointed an arbiter suggested by the Trump legal team to review the thousands of documents seized from his Florida residence. Cannon declined to lift any part of an order she issued last week that barred the department from using the documents, including about 100 marked classified, until the arbiter had completed a review, reports the New York Times. The review is to be completed by Nov. 30 by Raymond Dearie, a semiretired federal judge from New York City. Judge Dearie will now have the authority to sift through more than 11,000 records the FBI carted away from the Mar-a-Lago estate. This will significantly delay the DOJ's investigation into whether the former president unlawfully retained national defense records or obstructed retrieval attempts by federal officials. The department had asked Cannon to lift restrictions on federal use of the classified documents. DOJ plan to appeal the decision.
While Cannon’s order was a victory for Trump and his legal team, she made two significant concessions to the government. Cannon said Dearie should first look at the classified documents and “thereafter consider prompt adjustments to the court’s orders as necessary.” This raises the possibility that Dearie might quickly clear the documents and allow the FBI unrestricted access to them. Cannon also clarified that her ban on FBI access was temporary. While DOJ may not now present the seized documents to a grand jury or ask witnesses about their contents, she said, the FBI could continue to investigate “the movement and storage of seized materials, including documents marked as classified, without discussion of their contents.” Cannon said the government had not suggested there was any “identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information” regarding Trump’s retention of the materials.