Donald Trump FILE 1120

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Washington CNN  — 

The Justice Department’s investigation into the White House documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and resort is among the most politically explosive probes in recent years.

In the four months since the FBI’s search, the DOJ and Trump’s attorneys have repeatedly clashed in court over what documents can be examined and why.

The result has been a series of setbacks for Trump.

While the former President’s team initially got the special master they had pushed for, an appellate court brought an abrupt end to the role. The DOJ has also appointed a special counsel – much to Trump’s chagrin.

Here’s what a special master is, what a special counsel is, and what role each has played in the Mar-a-Lago investigation.

What is the role of the special counsel?

A special counsel is a lawyer appointed to lead an independent investigation and, if necessary, to prosecute anyone suspected of crimes. He or she must come from outside the government. A special counsel is typically appointed when the usual investigative bodies under the Justice Department, such as the FBI, have a conflict of interest in carrying out a probe.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.

Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations.

Why did Trump oppose a special counsel?

Trump has sought to paint the investigations as politically motivated, including at his presidential announcement last week, where he said he was the victim of a “weaponization” of the justice system.

Speaking at the America First gala at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night, the former president called the special counsel appointment an “appalling announcement