October 1, 2022

Washington — A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request to allow its investigators to regain access to about 100 classified documents seized by the FBI during a search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed to put on hold a lower court’s order barring a subset of sensitive records for the Justice Department to use for investigative purposes pending a review of the material by an independent arbitrator known as a special master.

Federal prosecutors asked the 11th Circuit to step in last week after U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee in 2020, denied their request to restore access to a batch of classified records that were among 11,000 documents seized on 8 August is looking for.

In their appeal to the Atlanta-based court, attorneys for the Justice Department argued that Cannon’s order “complicates” its criminal investigation and irreparably harms the government by blocking “critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and persuasive discovery of highly sensitive records,” including from Trump’s lawyers. They also warned that Cannon’s temporary ban on keeping investigators from using the material for investigative purposes “impedes the government’s efforts to protect the nation’s security.”

Donald Trump leads the American summit of the first agenda in Washington
Former US President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience after speaking during the America First Agenda Summit, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on July 26, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The former president’s legal team the 11th Circuit called to deny the Justice Department’s request to regain access to sensitive documents, repeating his characterization of the court battle as a “document storage dispute that has gotten out of hand.” The federal investigation into Trump, his lawyers James Trusty and Christopher Kise, told the court, was “unprecedented and wrong.”

The lawyers of the former president repeated the argument that the Ministry of Justice did not prove that the documents underlying his request sent to the 11th district were confidential.

In a late-night filing with the 11th Circuit on Tuesday, federal prosecutors rejected Trump’s efforts to raise questions about the material’s classified status, writing that the former president “has never actually represented — much less offered evidence — that he has declassified any relevant records.” They also pointed to a a detailed list of assets retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in an Aug. 8 search that shows federal agents took 33 items from storage and desks in Trump’s office that contained 103 documents marked “confidential,” “secret,” or “top secret.”

As Justice Department lawyers and Trump battle over access to about 100 classified documents, proceedings have begun for an outside arbitrator to review materials retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

Cannon last week tapped Raymond Dearie, a veteran federal judge who is semi-retired from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, to serve as a special master, and the Justice Department did not seek to block his appointment as part of its request that the 11th Circuit issue a freeze on the document. .

Dearie, who was suggested by the former president as a candidate for the role, held its first meeting with federal prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday about how his review of the seized material will proceed. During the 40-minute hearing in New York, Dearie appeared skeptical of Trump’s objection to his request that the former president reveal information about whether the seized material had been declassified.

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