- A former DOJ attorney told Insider that special master work is grueling stuff.
- She described the screening process involved as "time consuming" and the end result as "thankless."
- Trump's plea for a neutral observer may no longer matter, according to recent reports.
Serving as the special master in former President Donald Trump's legal fight over classified documents is a mind-numbing gig one former Department of Justice official can't imagine anyone is excited about handling.
"No one wants this assignment," Barbara McQuade, the former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told Insider, describing the slog of sifting through legal files to separate what's privileged from what's not as "the worst thing in the world."
"It's time consuming. It's thankless. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," McQuade said, regardless of the client. She added that the only real upside is "I suppose you get paid."
The dour assessment doesn't even take into account how the embattled former president is likely to treat the legal go-between if they dare say that he somehow mishandled a single page of the myriad government records FBI agents recovered from Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
Trump continues to rage against everyone involved in the document seizure, a public outcry that has, so far, stoked threats against or direct attacks on an FBI office in Ohio; federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the original search warrant; FBI Director Christopher Wray and federal law enforcement agents; as well as officials at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Trump petitioned to have a special master review his files on August 22, two weeks after investigators hauled 15 boxes full of assorted classified materials from his Florida home. Politico reported Monday that the request may already be moot, given that Justice Department officials said they've already completed their privilege-related screening process.
Should US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon continue on with the process, McQuade said the next logical step is to appoint someone who is "truly neutral." She said Reinhart is "probably the best choice," given that he's already looped into this case, but noted that Trump's disdain for him is an obvious sticking point.
McQuade added that Cannon could ask both sides to name the top three candidates they'd like to carry out the job and narrow the field from there, or she could just assign a legal professional of her choosing.
There could be additional fireworks, McQuade said, if Cannon were to go the partisan route and throw a close Trump ally into the mix.
"Imagine the worst case scenario: Rudy Giuliani is appointed to do it … and he just says, 'I've looked at it and it's all privileged. They shouldn't get any of it.' That could be a problem," McQuade said.
Trump's post-presidential office did not respond to Insider's request for comment about whether they have a special master candidate in mind.