Justice Dept. files notice of appeal of Mar-a-Lago special master

Spread the love

The Justice Department said it would appeal a federal judge’s decision to appoint a special master to sift through thousands of documents the FBI seized from Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Aug. 8, according to a Thursday court filing.

The notice of appeal arrived three days after Judge Aileen M. Cannon ruled in favor of Trump and said she would appoint a special master, slowing — at least temporarily — an investigation into the possible mishandling of extremely sensitive classified information, as well as possible hiding, tampering or destruction of government records.

The Justice Department wrote in a brief filing that it would be appealing the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The notice paves the way for federal prosecutors to submit a detailed appeals brief to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta.

In a separate, simultaneous court filing, government prosecutors asked Cannon to stay her Sept. 5 decision on two key points: her order to temporarily halt a significant portion of the FBI investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information, and to allow a special master to review the classified material that is among the documents seized as part of a court-authorized search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Aug. 8.

In the filing, prosecutors say that allowing a special master to review the classified material would “cause the most immediate and serious harms to the government and the public,” noting that those documents have already been moved to a secure facility, separate from the rest of the seized Trump papers.

Trump’s legal team argued in a federal courthouse in West Palm Beach last week that a special master is needed to determine whether any of the documents — more than 100 of which are classified — should be shielded from investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege. They also said an independent outside expert would boost “trust” in the Justice Department’s criminal probe.

Special masters and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents: What you need to know

Justice Department lawyers told Cannon they had already sorted through the documents, using a “filter team” to separate out more than 500 pages of documents potentially covered by attorney-client privilege. That arrangement was approved by the U.S. magistrate judge who authorized the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club, after the government tried for months to get Trump and his advisers to return all the government documents kept at the property.

The Justice Department also argued that a former president cannot assert executive privilege after he leaves office, and that it is not possible for one part of the executive branch to assert privilege to shield documents from another part.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that among the documents seized by the FBI was one describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The people also said of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations that are so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.

While the appointment of a special master means investigators cannot use the documents they seized until the outside expert clears them, an appeal of Cannon’s decision carries its own legal risks for the Justice Department.

The appeals process could take longer than any document review by the special master. And there is no guarantee that the government would prevail, particularly if the case were to reach the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Apsny News