“Bill Barr calls judge’s special master ruling “deeply flawed” and urges Dept. of Justice to appeal”, CBS News

By Robert Legare, 

Washington – Former Attorney General William Barr denounced a Florida federal judge’s order authorizing the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence, calling the ruling “wrong” and “deeply flawed.” 

“The opinion, I think, was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it,” former president Trump’s one-time attorney general said in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday, “It’s deeply flawed in a number of ways. I don’t think the appointment of a special master is going to hold up.”

Judge Aileen Cannon, appointed to the court by Trump in 2020, wrote Monday that she agreed with Trump’s legal team that a special master – a court-appointed independent third party – should review the records seized last month by the FBI as part of the Justice Department’s probe into whether the former president mishandled documents marked classified.

Former Attorney General William Barr
Former Attorney General William Barr in an interview with CBS News on Aug. 5, 2022.CBS NEWS

Cannon’s order also blocked federal investigators from using the seized records as part of their investigation until the special master review is complete.

But Barr – who Trump called “one of the most respected jurists in the country” when he nominated him in 2018 to be attorney general amid then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into any links between Russian election meddling and Trump associates – slammed the ruling as “premature” and said Cannon “dodge[d]” the question at issue: whether the former president’s potential claims of executive privilege can ever overcome the sitting president’s decision to waive such a privilege.

“The law here, I think, is pretty clear that the Justice Department should be able to review these documents,” Barr added during the interview.

And when pressed on Trump’s claims that he was allowed to keep the seized documents at Mar-a-Lago because he had declassified them, Barr said such a defense was “totally, totally wrong.”

The Justice Department, which Barr used to lead, said in a statement Monday it is now considering its next move in the ongoing litigation. In previous court filings, prosecutors opposed the appointment of a special master as “unnecessary.” Prosecutors argued that the materials seized at Mar-a-Lago belonged not to Trump, but to the federal government and should be returned to the National Archives.

Monday’s appearance was not the first time Trump’s one-time chief law enforcement officer criticized his former boss. In an interview on Friday, also on Fox News, Barr said, “I can’t think of a legitimate reason why they should have been — could be taken out of the government, away from the government, if they’re classified.” He also called Trump’s argument in favor of a special master a “red herring.”

It was “unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club,” Barr said last week.

Following Barr’s Friday comments, Trump called the former attorney general “weak” and a “RINO,” or a “Republican In Name Only,” a label the former president frequently uses to criticize members of his party who disagree with him.

On Monday, Barr –  who served as Attorney General under two Republican administrations – responded to Trump, telling Fox News, “A RINO for him is anyone who disagrees with him that the election was stolen.”

Barr resigned before the events of Jan. 6 and later called Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud “bull****” in recorded testimony before House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack, but had during his tenure stood by the former president during other contentious phases of the Trump presidency.

He notably oversaw the conclusion of Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and released a summary of Mueller’s report before releasing his full findings. Barr’s summary cleared Trump and his campaign of both allegations that they colluded with Russia and obstructed the investigation, though Mueller found 10 “discrete acts” in which Mueller said Trump might have obstructed the investigation. Mueller ultimately left the question of obstruction to the Justice Department.

Barr said Tuesday that ultimately, the central question to be answered by the court is, “Can [Trump] bar DOJ from reviewing the documents?”

“The answer to that, I think,” Barr responded, “is clearly no.”