A federal judge on Monday agreed to a request from Donald Trump to appoint a special master to review records the FBI seized at his Florida home, a move that could delay the investigation into whether the former president mishandled classified documents.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach, Florida, said the court authorized the appointment to review personal items, documents and material subject to claims of attorney-client privilege. Cannon was appointed by Trump in 2020, just months before he left office.
That authorization came days after the U.S. Justice Department, in a court filing, alleged that Trump’s records custodian, who was unnamed, falsely certified that the former president had returned all the government records. The department also said it had evidence classified documents were deliberately concealed from the FBI.
Trump is under investigation for removing government records, some of which were marked as highly classified, from the White House and storing them at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Below is a timeline of key events in the probe:
January 20, 2021
Trump departs the White House as Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation’s 46th president and heads to his private Florida estate known as Mar-a-Lago.
The National Archives and Records Administration, also known as NARA, emails Trump’s lawyers, notifying them that some two dozen boxes of original records were not turned over, according to The Washington Post.
A Trump representative tells the National Archives “that they had located some records,” according to a statement published later by the National Archives.
The National Archives retrieves 15 boxes of presidential records from Trump’s estate.
The nonpartisan presidential records agency said it “identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials” and sought permission to alert the FBI.
February 8, 2022
The National Archives issues a public statement saying it is still searching for more of Trump’s presidential records, one day after The Washington Post reported the boxes were retrieved from Florida.
February 10, 2022
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee announces an investigation into Trump’s handling of the documents, later expanding its probe in a February 24 letter to the agency.
The New York Times reports White House staff periodically found clumps of documents clogging White House toilets, an accusation Trump has said is false. Reporter Maggie Haberman later releases photos of some of the alleged found documents.
February 18, 2022
The National Archives tells Congress that Trump took classified information to his Florida home after leaving the White House.
April 7, 2022
Sources confirm to Reuters that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating Trump’s removal of official presidential records from the White House.
April 11, 2022
The White House Counsel’s Office under Biden formally requests that the National Archives give the FBI access to the 15 boxes. The National Archives notifies Trump’s representatives about the FBI review in an April 12 letter.
April 29 and May 1, 2022
Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran seeks to delay disclosure to the FBI in two letters sent to the National Archives.
May 10, 2022
Acting U.S. Archivist Debra Steidel Wall responds to Corcoran, rejecting Trump’s requested delay and refusing his “‘protective’ claim of privilege,” adding the FBI can access the records as soon as May 12. The letter is made public August 23 and notes hundreds of pages of classified documents were recovered so far.
May 11, 2022
Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence and export control at the U.S. Justice Department’s National Security Division, requests that Trump’s custodian of records appear before a federal grand jury in Washington, Tuesday’s filing showed. Bratt, in a separate letter to Corcoran, says the representative can comply with the subpoena by giving the FBI “any responsive documents” and a sworn statement, instead of appearing in court. The grand jury probe was first reported by The New York Times.
June 3, 2022
A Trump representative, whose name is redacted in the Justice Department filing, asserts that “a diligent search” was conducted for documents at Mar-a-Lago removed from the White House and that “any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.”
August 8, 2022
Federal agents execute a search warrant at Trump’s Florida property, uncovering 13 boxes or containers with documents marked classified — “more than twice the amount produced June 3 in response to the grand jury subpoena.” Trump was not at the property at the time, and media reports showed him at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
A photo released in a court filing later that month shows some of the seized documents with clear markings of “Top Secret” and “Secret.”
Trump, in a post online, says the records were “all declassified” and placed in “secure storage.” A day later, Trump, who continues to hint at a possible 2024 run for the presidency, cites the FBI search in a campaign fundraising appeal.
August 12, 2022
The FBI’s search warrant is released to the public following approval by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.
August 22, 2022
Two weeks after the FBI’s search, Trump separately asks the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for a so-called special master to review the documents, prompting the Justice Department’s 54-page response on Tuesday.
The next day, the National Archives releases its May 10 letter to Trump’s attorney.
August 26, 2022
The Justice Department releases a heavily redacted affidavit — a sworn statement outlining the evidence giving law enforcement officials probable cause to ask a judge to approve a search warrant — after media outlets sued for its release. A judge approved its release.
August 30, 2022
The department files its response to Trump’s request for a special master review.
September 1, 2022
At a hearing in West Palm Beach, Cannon suggests she is willing to accede to Trump’s request and appoint a special master to review the documents.
September 2, 2022
The FBI reveals in a court filing that it recovered more than 11,000 government documents and photographs during the August 8 search of Trump’s estate, as well as 48 empty folders labeled as “classified.”
U.S. judge agrees to appoint special master in Trump search case.