Understanding Trump's Request For A "Special Master" | Crooked Media
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August 29, 2022
What A Day
Understanding Trump's Request For A "Special Master"

In This Episode

  • A federal judge has indicated that she may appoint a “special master” to review the documents that the FBI seized from Mar-A-Lago earlier this month. We go over what that means, and what it means for the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump.
  • NASA was set to blast off the debut flight of its Artemis I mission to the moon on Monday, but engineers were forced to delay the launch over apparent engine problems.
  • And in headlines: Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr said he’s retiring from politics, the Federal Trade Commission sued a data broker for allegedly selling information that could track user locations, and teachers in Columbus, Ohio voted to end their days-long strike.


Show Notes:



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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday




Josie Duffy Rice: It is Tuesday, August 30th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What A Day recorded live this week from the top of a very tall and unstable art installation at Burning Man. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we don’t know how we got up here or how we’re getting down. We’re waving our hands for help, but no one can see us through the dust storms. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I need ten project managers from Apple to come rescue me [laughter] ASAP. 


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, international inspectors are finally heading to a Russian occupied nuclear plant in Ukraine. Plus, the days of getting free COVID tests delivered to your door will soon come to an end. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, we want to get you up to speed on the latest developments in the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump. Josie, what’s the latest on that? 


Josie Duffy Rice: A federal judge has indicated that she may appoint a, quote, “special master” to review the documents that the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. Now, Trump’s legal team filed that request on August 22nd, but before the Department of Justice filed their response, the U.S. District Judge, Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee, issued a preliminary order to the Trump team’s motion anyway. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, that sounds a little fishy, but before we get into that, can you tell us what is a special master? It doesn’t sound good, but maybe it is. I don’t know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: In this particular context, the special master would be like a third party attorney that’s appointed by a court. His job is to functionally watch over particular parts of a case. So in this case, Trump’s lawyers are requesting that a special master should, according to the Washington Post, sift through the material the FBI seized and set aside any that should be shielded from government review because of executive privilege. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Now, is this a normal request? Like is a special master a regular thing that a court would appoint? Or is this kind of out of left field? 


Josie Duffy Rice: A special master is certainly not like an everyday thing appointed in like regular, shmegular court cases. But in instances like this, they are definitely used right? Like when they’re extenuating circumstances. Very, very sensitive material. And, you know, this is the literal definition of extenuating circumstances. Right. I mean, this cases the most extenuating of circumstances. [laughter] Right. So, you know, some people think that this is just the Trump team, like trying to stall, make unnecessary roadblocks, etc.. I personally think they’d be a little nuts not to ask for a special master in this case. Otherwise, it’s really up to the DOJ what documents should be included or not, when the whole point of a special master here would be to determine what the DOJ can even see. So like that doesn’t make any sense. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Now I’m sure Trump’s team sees the delay as an added bonus. But yeah, this isn’t a crazy request. Especially when Trump’s alleging that the government took more than they should have, took more than they were entitled to. This is the kind of request that would follow from that sort of allegation. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So now who would they even get to be a special master in this case? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s a great question, because like very few people are qualified to handle a case like this, and many of them work for the government or the Biden administration, which again defeats the purpose a little bit. But there are some possibilities, like maybe a retired judge or a lawyer with executive privilege expertise like these are the kind of people they could possibly pull in. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So now you said that the DOJ has yet to respond to Trump’s request. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Correct. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But the judge issued an order anyway. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is that unusual? Feels like it is. It’s got to be. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s got to be. Yeah. So that part is definitely unusual. Now, again, the judge did not issue a final order. In other words, she did not say yes, I rule that a special master is necessary here. But on Saturday, she issued what CNN is calling a preliminary intent, which was basically a two page order asking that the DOJ meet certain deadlines in advance of her ruling on the motion. And she did this before the DOJ filed their reply to Trump’s motion, which is unusual. Usually a judge wouldn’t rule on a motion like this at all until a response to the motion had been filed so she wouldn’t rule until she had like heard from both sides. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Now, Judge Cannon instructed the parties to be prepared for a hearing on Thursday where she will consider the request. And she’s been clear that she has not issued a final ruling yet. But it is definitely unusual to issue an order before you get a reply from the original motion. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So speaking of that reply, where is the Justice Department on all this? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, well, the DOJ has identified some complicating factors already. For one, according to numerous reports, a quote, “filter team of DOJ attorneys who are not on this case have already reviewed the evidence collected by the FBI”. This is what’s known as a taint team. And that group, according to U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez, quote, “identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney client privileged information”. So in other words, like there’s less reason to appoint a special master if the DOJ has already gone through the material because the harm has only been done. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Basically what a lot of what Trump is trying to prevent is DOJ lawyers seeing stuff that they are not entitled to see. And what they’re basically saying is, we’ve already done that. [laugh] There are other questions regarding the special master request and the DOJ, for example, like if the special master identifies a document as protected, but the DOJ disagrees that it’s protected, who prevails? I would imagine the special master, but these processes can differ by case. So we will see how that plays out and if one will be appointed at all. In the meantime, we will be keeping an eye out. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. Onto another update on NASA’s mission to get humans back to the moon. We mentioned on yesterday’s show that the space agency was set to launch the debut uncrewed test flight of its Artemis mission on Monday, but it was called off and did not blast off to infinity and beyond as intended. And yes, Josie. I promise not to do any more Toy Story Buzz Lightyear references. But I’ve got others coming, FYI. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, I’m actually very into the Toy Story references. [laugh] So tell us, why did they call it off? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, well, according to reports, an engine issue prevented the rocket from leaving the launch pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Apparently, one of its four engines did not get up to the correct temperature. Now, I don’t know how such an issue compares to the importance of go/ no-go calculations. This is a hidden figures reference for those who don’t know what I’m saying. But as a result, the launch had to be scrubbed. Now, NASA did already have a couple backup dates on the calendar in case something delayed the launch. And so the mission could be resumed as early as September 2nd, which is this Friday. It’s not yet clear, though, if NASA will be able to fix the issues by then. If not, the second backup date is Monday, September 5th. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, this doesn’t seem like a great start. You never want to hear engine issues. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] No, you don’t. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And especially as you mentioned yesterday, with billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk trying to colonize the solar system, taking class war to a whole new realm, literally. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are just trying to make our hearts go zoom, zoom, zoom and be some supernova girls you know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my god. Incredible song. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Not that big of a deal. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Incredible reference. Bring back Zenon. Honestly, when Zenon was on television, did we even have problems? I don’t think so. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely not. But there is some truth to what you’re saying, Josie. John Logsdon, the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Axios that, quote, “NASA has never been challenged as the best way for the United States to do hard things in space until now. That’s because we have Jeff Bezos and his company, Blue Origin. They went to the edge of space last year, as did Richard Branson and his company, Virgin Galactic. Then their is Space X, which is owned by Elon Musk and also has been developing its own spaceships to get people and cargo into the great beyond. And to be quite frank, they’re all getting closer and closer. Space X is apparently getting its starship vehicle ready for an orbital test flight at some point this year. Meanwhile, NASA hasn’t sent people back to the lunar surface since the 1970s, and experts say the agency needs to prove that it’s still on the cutting edge of the technology needed for human space exploration. You know, they’ve got to justify that $25 billion dollar budget somehow, apparently. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Which honestly, let me just say, I am fine with that budget personally. The U.S. military spends a ton of money. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and whoever else have all the money in the world to spend on this. Spend that money on NASA, love to see it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: More on this story to come, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The Ukrainian military is going on the offensive to try to take back some of the territory seized by Russia. Ukraine’s focus is the southern region of Kherson, which was among the first areas invaded when Vladimir Putin launched the war six months ago. Ukrainian officials made the announcement yesterday, signaling a new phase in the war. And meanwhile, inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency announced they’re traveling to the Russian occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. This is Europe’s largest atomic energy facility and has been at the center of recent fighting. International experts want to assess the damage there in order to avoid a potential nuclear catastrophe. Both Ukraine and Russia have blamed the other for shelling in its vicinity. The U.N. team is expected to arrive by tomorrow. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At least 15 protesters in Iraq were killed and over a hundred more were injured by government police on Monday. After the major Shiite leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, announced that he’s retiring from politics. For context, the country is in deep political turmoil because it hasn’t had an official government in place since its last election in 2021. Iraq has only had a parliament, and at first the majority of its members were from Sadr’s political party, as opposed to his Iranian backed Shiite rivals. These lawmakers couldn’t agree on who should be Iraq’s new president and prime minister, and Sadr only made things worse in June when he told all of his allies in parliament to resign, which they did. Then in July, Sadr’s supporters stormed the parliament building and occupied it for weeks, the lawmakers couldn’t get anything done. And that brings us to where we are now with Sadr’s retirement, which triggered the violent protests at Iraq’s capital yesterday. The main takeaway here is that Sadr’s departure could give his Iranian backed rivals the opportunity to form a new government of their own and escalate the violence in Iraq. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The Federal Trade Commission sued a data broker on Monday accusing it of illegally selling information that could be used to track people who go to abortion clinics and other sensitive locations. This is the first time the FTC has filed a lawsuit like this since Roe was overturned. The suit alleges that Kochava Inc., the data broker in question, has been collecting and selling location data from get ready, hundreds of millions of phones. To many millions. [laugh] Data brokers do this all the time, but the illegal part is that Kochava Inc. wasn’t removing personal identifiers before selling people’s information. And this comes after the FTC said earlier this month it would expand online privacy protections amid heightened fears that police could use this kind of data to prosecute people for getting an abortion. Kochava Inc. called the suit, quote, “meritless”. But if the FTC does win this lawsuit, other data brokers could face similar scrutiny. Honestly, data brokers facing more scrutiny. I’m cool with that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Probably a net positive for all of us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A net positive. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Vacation is over for students in Columbus, Ohio, where teachers returned to the classroom yesterday after voting to end their four day strike. We talked on the show about how over 4000 unionized teachers and other school staffers took to the picket lines early last week to demand resources to support their students. Among other things, they wanted smaller class sizes, better pay, as well as heating and AC units for their classrooms. I feel like heating and AC should not be, you know, a negotiable thing that feels like required. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And we always say children are the future. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. I’m going to need them to, like, be in the appropriate temperature range. That feels reasonable. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, on Thursday, their union approved a new contract with the city school district that addressed the concerns, allowing classes to resume in-person. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You’re cut off from your favorite cardboard lollipops because the federal government is winding down its free at home COVID testing kit program this week. You may have forgotten that the Biden administration has warned for months that government funding for COVID relief is running out. This is good news for the back of your nose, which might need some time off from swabbing. But it is bad news for the country. More pandemic funding would require action from Congress, which, as we know, happens extremely slowly. I don’t see it happening. What do you think Tre’vell?


Tre’vell Anderson: Not likely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Not likely. The decision to pull free tests comes as the government’s own stockpile is dwindling and health officials want to hold on to enough tests in the event that we see another fall surge in cases. If you never got your test, you have until Friday to request them at CovidTests.gov. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. I just got mine earlier this week. Shout out to me. And at long last, someone is making nostalgic content for millennials. We deserve a romcom about the fleeting nineties romance between N’SYNC’s Lance Bass and Danielle Fishel, who played Topanga on Boy Meets World, could be coming soon. The pair broke the news last Sunday on the podcast Pod Meets World, which I am shocked, absolutely flabbergasted to find out is not produced by Crooked Media, but that is fine. The film will center on a prom night in 2000 where Bass was Fishel’s date. Apparently the pressures of that night ended their fling, but they also helped Bass begin to accept himself as a gay man. I know some of you were trying to do that math in your head. Comedians Mary Holland and Lauren Lapkus are writing the script, which can also serve as an artifact for future alien societies, looking to understand my generation. And so I love this for us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You know what? I was skeptical at first because of everything about it. [laughter] However, I am now fully in, I will host a watch party. I am here for it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Who would have thought that Lance Bass and the Girl from Boy Meets World, Danielle Fishel, would revive the rom com? That’s what this movie will do. You heard it here first. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, my sixth grade self would have 100% thought [laughter] that both of these two people would play a major part in the rom coms of the future. So congratulations to young Josie. On being right about exactly one thing. [laughing] And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. Systemic racism and police brutality and generational trauma all play a huge role in the mental health of the Black community. The ladies of Imani State of Mind are taking a deep dove into what it really means to be Black in America and the harsh realities of how race feeds into the health of the Black community. Listen to this conversation and new episodes of Imani State of Mind every Friday, wherever you get your podcasts. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Enjoy your last few cardboard lollipops and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading and not just the script to the Lance Bass prom movie like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And rescue us from Burning Man. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, I’m confused by the cardboard lollipop thing [laughter] because does everybody know how the Covid tests work? You’re not supposed to lick anything. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I hope that people aren’t licking it. But you know, when you hold it up from the little swab thing, it kind of looks like a lollipop. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t lick your Covid test. For the love of God. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.