U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday rejected a Justice Department demand to let federal prosecutors continue their review of records marked classified that were recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
In her ruling, Cannon refused to accept department officials’ contention that the records they are trying to review as part of an ongoing criminal investigation remain highly classified or contain extraordinarily sensitive defense information that could damage national security if released.
“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the Government’s conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited and orderly fashion,” Cannon, a Trump appointee, wrote in her 10-page ruling denying the Justice Department’s request to essentially exclude about 100 documents marked classified from the special master process.
Cannon instead appointed Raymond Dearie, a senior federal judge in New York, to lead an independent review of the seized materials. He was one of two potential special masters proposed by the Trump team, and prosecutors said they found him acceptable even though he was not one of their initial picks.
In a signed filing released by the court on Thursday night, Dearie accepted the task. Cannon urged him to complete his review by Nov. 30 — more than a month after the Oct. 17 deadline the Justice Department had most recently asked Cannon to set. [Continue reading…]
Andrew Weissmann, a federal prosecutor, a former senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and a special master himself, described Dearie as “compassionate” and “fair” and the “platonic ideal of what you want in a judge.”
“If you asked both prosecutors and lawyers, they would say the same thing, that he is just so fair,” Weissmann said. “It’s unusual to have a judge where both sides just have enormous praise for somebody.”
When Weissmann was starting out as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, the judge was late for a court appearance. “A few days later, I got in the mail a handwritten apology from him,” Weissmann recalled. The defense lawyer got the same letter from the judge. “It was just remarkable because judges have a lot of power — they don’t need to do that,” Weissmann said.
And in a statement to NPR, Daniel R. Alonso, partner at Buckley LLP and a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, called Dearie an “old-school gentleman and unfailingly polite.”
“Judge Dearie is a judge who, though unfailingly fair, would never tolerate the kinds of arguments that Trump’s lawyers tend to put forward,” Alonso said. [Continue reading…]