The U.S. Department of Justice may resume examining confidential documents seized by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home pending appeal, a federal court ruled on Wednesday, giving a boost to criminal investigations to determine whether documents have been mishandled or compromised.
The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States upheld a request from federal prosecutors to block the stay of United States District Judge Aileen Cannon by preventing them from using classified documents in their sample until a independent arbiter, called a special master, controls the materials to be eradicated all those that could be considered privileged and hidden from investigators.
The appeals court also said it would agree to overturn part of the lower court order that required the government to hand over documents with grading marks for the special master’s review.
“We conclude that the United States would suffer irreparable harm from the district court’s restrictions on its access to this … set of materials, as well as the court’s requirement that the United States submit classified records to the special master for review,” he wrote. the jury of the three judges.
The panel added that the decision was “limited in nature”, as the Justice Department had requested only a partial suspension pending the appeal, and that the panel was unable to decide on the merits of the case.
The department’s request to the court had not called for the annulment of Cannon’s order itself, and it is unclear whether prosecutors could separately seek to challenge other parts of Cannon’s ruling on the appointment of the special master.
“We decide only traditional considerations of fairness, including whether the United States has shown a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits, the harm each party could suffer from a suspension and where the public interest resides,” the appellate court said. .
The three judges who made the decision were Robin Rosenbaum, nominated by former Democratic President Barack Obama, and Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, both nominated by Trump.
Trump’s attorneys could potentially ask the US Supreme Court, whose Conservative majority of 6-3 includes three judges appointed by him, to intervene on the matter.
In their filing on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers urged the court to keep the suspension in effect and to allow them, under the supervision of special teacher, US judge Raymond Dearie, to review all seized materials, including those marked classified.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not have an immediate comment. Trump’s lawyers could not be reached immediately for comment.
In an interview with Fox News Wednesday night, Trump reiterated his claim without evidence that he had declassified the documents and claimed he has the power to do so “even thinking about it.”
The FBI conducted a court-authorized search on August 8 of Trump’s home on the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, seizing more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 marked classified.
The research was part of a federal investigation to see if Trump illegally removed documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 following his failed 2020 re-election bid and if Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.
Cannon, herself nominated by Trump, has appointed US judge Raymond Dearie to serve as a special teacher in the case at Trump’s request. The Justice Department had opposed the appointment of a special teacher.
Cannon instructed Dearie to review all material, including confidential, so that he could separate anything that might be subject to attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, a legal doctrine that protects certain White House communications from disclosure.
As one of his defenses, Trump claimed on social media posts with no evidence that he had declassified the records.
However, his lawyers did not make such claims in any of their legal documents and, during a hearing before Dearie on Tuesday, they resisted his request to provide evidence that Trump had declassified all the documents.
Although the appeals court pointed out that his ruling was narrow in scope, it nevertheless seemed to scold Cannon’s ruling from top to bottom and many of Trump’s legal arguments.
“[Trump] it did not even attempt to demonstrate that it needed to know the information contained in the confidential documents, “the judges wrote.” Nor did it establish that the current administration has waived this requirement for these documents. “
The Justice Department previously also raised strong objections to Cannon’s request that Dearie examine the seized documents for documents possibly covered by executive privileges, noting that Trump is a former president and the documents do not belong to him.