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New Washington Judge on Trump Proceedings

FILE: E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Taken November 28, 2018

WASHINGTON - A new judge took overr leadership of the U.S. trial court in Washington on Friday, inheriting oversight of secret proceedings involving special counsel criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump's retention of classified documents and efforts by him and his allies to undo his 2020 election loss.

James "Jeb" Boasberg becomes chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Beryl Howell as her seven-year term comes to an end.

The chief judge has sole discretion over sealed federal grand jury proceedings. That means Boasberg will immediately take over responsibility for handling certain issues that may arise in the special counsel investigations involving Trump, who in November announced he was seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Boasberg also would assume the same responsibilities if a grand jury is formed in a separate special counsel investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. Biden, a Democrat, is expected to seek re-election in 2024.

As chief judge, Boasberg is poised to rule on certain legal arguments raised in the grand jury probes, including efforts to restrict witnesses from testifying. Grand jury proceedings are kept from public view.

In an interview, Boasberg declined to comment on his impending grand jury oversight duties. He praised his predecessor, saying the court was fortunate to have had Howell as its leader "in this very fraught period."

"She's led the court in a terrific way through COVID and dislocations, and she also has maintained a very cohesive court not driven by partisan divides," Boasberg said.

Boasberg, an appointee of Democratic President Barack Obama, has served on the court since 2011. He previously was picked in 2002 by Republican President George W. Bush for the local D.C. Superior Court. Both times he was easily confirmed by the U.S. Senate.