An appeals court said Wednesday investigators from the Department of Justice can review about 100 classified documents extracted from Mar-A-Lago, even while a court-appointed special master screens the majority of the seized records, marking a blow to former President Donald Trump and a reversal of a lesser court ruling that stopped the DOJ from utilizing the records.
A three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals partially stayed a youthful ruling from District Court Judge Aileen Cannon that prohibited the DOJ from accessing the seized Mar-A-Lago records until a particular master can review them.
The appellate court granted the DOJs request to exclude roughly 100 records which were marked classified from the special masters review.
Trumps legal team has suggested he might have declassified the materials as president, but Trump resisted providing any evidence, the panelwhich included two Trump appointees and something Obama appointeenoted in its ruling Wednesday.
The appellate court also said the declassification argument is really a red herring because even though Trump declassified some or all the documents, that could not explain why Trump includes a personal fascination with them.
FBI agents seized troves of government documentssome which were marked classifiedfrom Trumps Mar-A-Lago club last month, section of a probe into whether Trump and his staff violated federal recordkeeping and obstruction laws. Trumps legal team asked Cannon to avoid the DOJ from reviewing all the documents until a particular master can screen them for executive and attorney-client privilege, a request that Cannon granted, appointing former Judge Raymond Dearie for the role. Despite the fact that the DOJ has argued a particular master is unnecessary, its appealfiled after Cannon declined to revise her orderfocused solely on excluding classified documents from the review process. Federal officials say the federal government needs usage of the documents so that it can fully assess the possible unauthorized disclosure of the classified records. Trumps lawyers argued against excluding the classified documents from the special masters review and noted that Trump had the energy to declassify the materials when he was in office, however they didn’t actually assert he declassified them, saying it might hurt their defense if Trump were to be indicted.