The aftermath of last Friday's release of the government's justification for searching former President Donald Trump's Florida residence included a federal judge's signal that she will grant Trump's request for a special master to review the seized documents and new insights into a possible obstruction case taking shape. U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Saturday asked the government to give a status report on its own review of the materials and set a Thursday court hearing in West Palm Beach, Fl., on the role of a special master in a process that leaves many questions about how it might proceed, the Washington Post reports. Legal experts said the Justice Department could render the special-master question moot if its own summary of its internal review satisfies the judge's need for more details about what documents were seized and whether they are protected by executive privilege.
The criminal inquiry behind the search, which is overseen by a different federal court in Florida, poses novel challenges for Merrick Garland's Justice Department and its parallel probes into the handling of national-security documents stored at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times reports. The 38-page search warrant affidavit, released Friday with heavy redactions, revealed strong hints of a focus on alleged obstruction of justice, which could be an even more serious threat to Trump or his close associates, the Times reported. That inquiry in some way echoes the obstruction investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel in Trump's Russia election-interference probe. Garland and his team are fully aware of the politically fraught nature of their work, the Times analysis concludes, "but a decision to prosecute — or to decline to prosecute — has political implications that Mr. Garland cannot escape. And no matter of judiciousness can change the fact that he is operating within an America as politically divided as it has been in decades."