Trump Documents Will Be Reviewed by Retiring Judge, Court Rules

(Bloomberg) — US District Court Judge Raymond J. Dearie was named as special master to review all 11,000 documents seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month.

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Both the Justice Department and Trump’s attorneys had agreed that Dearie would be a suitable candidate, one of the rare moments of consensus in a case otherwise rife with politics and dispute.

“The Special Master shall review all of the materials seized during the August 8, 2022, execution of a court-authorized search warrant” at Mar-a-Lago, US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, said in in announcing the appointment Thursday. She gave Dearie until Nov. 30 to complete the review, and ordered Trump to pay the full cost of the review.

Dearie is a senior federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, which covers three New York counties as well as Long Island. He served a rotation on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, an arm of the federal judiciary that mostly operates in secret because of the sensitive nature of the covert operations and national security interests at stake.

Dearie was one of several judges to sign off on a succession of warrants that the FBI sought to surveil Carter Page, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, as part of a broader investigation into Russian interference in the election. The Justice Department inspector general later concluded that federal investigators had made mistakes and omissions in its warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, fueling long-running criticism of the Russia probe by Trump and other Republicans.

Dearie, who has served as a federal judge in Brooklyn for more than 30 years, was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Prior to that he served as the Brooklyn US Attorney from 1982 to 1986.

Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who worked closely with Dearie on a public corruption case, said the office often competed against then-Manhattan US Attorney Rudy Giuliani for high-profile cases.

Dearie “wasn’t overtly political at all,” said O’Brien, now a partner at Ford O’Brien Landy LLP in New York. “He labored in the shadow of Giuliani who would try to poach and take credit on at least one occasion. Ray didn’t play politics, he just went about the office’s business.”

“He’s used to pressure as he’s had some high-profile cases as a judge and as US Attorney,” O’Brien said. “That’s the measure of the kind of guy he is. He does the job and tries to be fair and doesn’t let personal considerations influence him. There’s no question he’s going to play it straight and do his job and do it expeditiously becuase he knows there’s a weighty investigation waiting in the wings. As a former US attorney, he will do his job and not linger for publicity.”

Cannon had asked both sides to submit candidates to act in the capacity as a neutral third party to review the documents. Dearie had originally been named by Trump’s lawyers but the Justice Department agreed that he met their criteria for the position as well.

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