Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe scored a crucial legal win on Wednesday, when a federal judge ordered that a “special master” be appointed to review data from O’Keefe’s cellular phones, seized by the FBI in a November raid on his home.
Last month, the FBI raided O’Keefe’s house, ostensibly looking for information about the alleged theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Joe Biden, in 2020. O’Keefe says that Project Veritas obtained the diary legally but declined to publish its contents, and contacted law enforcement. (Portions of the diary were leaked and published, though it is not clear that Project Veritas had any connection to the leaks or to the publication.)
O’Keefe went to federal court to force the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop extracting information from his phones, and the judge ordered the DOJ to comply, pending a decision about the appointment of a special master to screen out materials that might be privileged and therefore unavailable to law enforcement, such as O’Keefe’s communications to his attorneys.
Subsequently, the New York Times began publishing legal memos written by O’Keefe’s lawyers to him regarding his past journalistic projects, prompting a state judge in New York to bar the Times from doing so until it could defend its actions in court and reassure the court that it was not using privileged information to which it did not have the right to gain access.
On Wednesday, Judge Analisa Torres, a Barack Obama appointee, said that while prosecutors in the Southern District of New York had “integrity,” the appointment of a special master was necessary on the principle that justice must be seen to be fair.
She appointed retired federal judge Barbara S. Jones as special master, and ordered the DOJ to have her review all information from O’Keefe’s devices. The judge also outlined a process designed to keep the team reviewing the materials separate from the team investigating O’Keefe.
A similar process was used in 2018 when the FBI raided the home and office of Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump, who was then under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Jones, who was also the special master in that case, eventually concluded that nearly two-thirds of the materials were covered by attorney-client privilege and could not be used by the DOJ.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.