For former President Donald Trump, it wasn’t even the worst new law he received Wednesday. That came after a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta vacated the court’s ruling, partially blocking an ongoing Justice Department criminal investigation into whether Trump illegally detained him. a-Lago (and refuse to return) much of the government documents.
The immediate effect of the panel’s decision is to clear the way for the Department of Justice to continue its work. But the broader significance of Wednesday night’s ruling — the significance of which, at least for now, outweighs the possibility of what may come from the civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — is that the jury included two Trumps. appointees threw cold water on the only arguments left to defend against the Mar-a-Lago search.
The case before the Eleventh Circuit was whether to freeze part of an order entered by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon on Sept. 5 — an order that sought to prevent the Justice Department from using most of the materials recovered in the Aug. 8 search. Until and unless it can be reviewed by a special master appointed by the Mar-a-Lago court. (The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, expressed deep skepticism about Trump’s claims during his first hearing on Tuesday.)
Over the course of 29 pages, the three-judge Eleventh Circuit panel made quick work of Cannon’s ruling — that the Justice Department was almost certain to get the ruling thrown out, and therefore should at least freeze the ruling. classified materials while the appeals process runs its course.
The panel, which included judges Robin Rosenbaum (appointed by President Barack Obama) and judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher (appointed by Trump), emphasized that Trump had not proven his case. be He declassified any classified information found at Mar-a-Lago, as well as the extent to which the issue is a “red issue” to discuss whether those documents belong to Trump or the government.
As every expert in the field has patiently explained over the past six weeks, Trump’s “I’ve declassified everything” argument is equal parts factually implausible and legally irrelevant.
But it was in a more subtle part of the opinion that the panel dealt Trump his most significant defeat. In two pages and a footnote that would have excused non-legal readers for skipping past, the three justices unequivocally rejected the claims made by Trump and his supporters (including the state of Texas, which fielded a very unusual friend). court brief on behalf of 10 other red states) that the former president’s investigation and Mar-a-Lago searches were nothing more than bad faith harassment by the Biden administration.
This issue, which has gained prominence in the right-wing media, suggests that all normal deference to government in the midst of a criminal investigation should be suspended in this case, as the Biden administration cannot be trusted. (Again, the Texas brief is quite the hike.)
The judge directly rejected this insinuation. He explained that while the relief granted by Cannon may be appropriate, the government’s conduct in the cases was “part of a plan to use arrests, seizures and threats of prosecution” not to obtain convictions, but to “harass” alleged defendant Trump. has made no such allegation here” (in its legal papers, anyway), “we see no evidence in the record.”
In other words, a three-judge panel of one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country reviewed the Mar-a-Lago search and the broader criminal and national security investigation into the former president of the United States and could “.see no evidence in the record” that the Biden administration asserts that its law enforcement authorities were using it to harass Trump — as opposed to conducting an actual investigation into possible serious violations of federal criminal statutes.
This is not how the ruling will be described in the right-wing media, but in its emotionless prose, it is a devastating indictment of the ongoing efforts to portray Trump as a victim.
To be sure, Trump could still try to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the Eleventh Circuit’s stay (the appeals court does not allow full court review of emergency rulings like Wednesday’s). But as many have become cynical about the Supreme Court, such efforts are unlikely to succeed.
The same court has ruled against Trump in similar cases, including this January, when Judge Clarence Thomas was the only public dissenter against a ruling clearing the way for the National Archives to release records to a House select committee on Jan. 6. But the justices will also scrutinize what the Eleventh Circuit wrote Wednesday — and find, as the three appeals panel judges made clear, that this is not the first time the former emperor has been without clothes.