In a stark rejection of Donald Trump’s legal arguments, a federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the Justice Department to resume the use of classified documents seized from the former president’s Florida estate as part of the ongoing criminal investigation.
The ruling by a panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals is a victory for the Justice Department and clears the way for investigators to continue examining the documents as they consider whether to bring criminal charges against the U.S. Court of Appeals. storage of sensitive data at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. By lifting a hold on a core aspect of the department’s investigation, the court removed an obstacle that could have delayed the investigation for weeks, if not months.
The appeals court also emphatically noted that Trump had not provided evidence that he had released the sensitive data, as he has repeatedly claimed, and rejected the possibility that Trump would have an “individual interest in or need for” the approximately 100 classification-marked documents. can have. which were seized by the FBI on August 8 during its search of Palm Beach.
The government had argued that its investigation had been hampered by the order of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, temporarily banning investigators from continuing to use the documents in the investigation.
Cannon, a Trump appointee, had said the hold would remain in place pending a separate review by an independent arbitrator she appointed at the request of the Trump team.
The appeals committee agreed with the concerns of the Ministry of Justice.
“Clearly, the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of the classified documents does not lead to ‘exceptionally serious damage to national security,’ they wrote. “To establish that,” she added. admits, “this necessarily means reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods were compromised.”
An injunction that delayed or prevented the criminal investigation from “using classified material risks causing real and significant harm to the United States and the public,” they wrote.
Two of the three judges who delivered the verdict on Wednesday, Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, were nominated by Trump. Judge Robin Rosenbaum was nominated by former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s lawyers did not return an email asking whether they would appeal the ruling. Justice did not immediately comment.
The FBI seized about 11,000 documents last month, including about 100 with classification markings, during a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach club’s home. It has launched a criminal investigation into whether the records have been misused or compromised. It is not clear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.
Cannon ruled on Sept. 5 that she would appoint a special captain, or independent arbitrator, to conduct an independent review of those documents and segregate any documents that might be covered by claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege and to determine whether any of the materials should be returned to Trump. Raymond Dearie, the former chief justice of the Brooklyn federal court, has been appointed to the role and held his first meeting with lawyers from both sides on Tuesday.
Justice had argued that a special master review of the classified documents was not necessary. It said Trump, as a former president, could not claim executive privilege over the documents, nor could they be covered by attorney-client privilege because they do not involve communication between Trump and his attorneys.
It had also challenged Cannon’s order to allow Dearie and Trump’s attorneys access to the classified material. The court sided with the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying “courts should only review such materials in the most extraordinary circumstances. It cannot be concluded from the file that this is such a circumstance.”
Trump’s lawyers argued that an independent review of the data was essential given the unprecedented nature of the investigation. The lawyers also said the department had not yet proved that the seized documents had been classified, although notably they did not claim — as Trump has repeatedly done — that the documents had been previously released. They have resisted giving their stance on that question to Dearie, indicating that the matter could be part of their defense in the event of an indictment.
Plaintiff suggests he may have released these documents when he was president. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records have been released,” they wrote. “In any case, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring, because releasing an official document wouldn’t change the content or make it personal.”