The Justice Department has formally appealed the appointment of a special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case



CNN

The Justice Department formally appealed the appointment of the special master overseeing the review of documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, in a brief filed Friday in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Justice Department focused its brief on sharp criticism of Judge Aileen Cannon’s actions, arguing that she lacked the authority to interfere with their federal criminal investigation. The Justice Department is asking a federal appeals court to overturn Cannon’s order and end its review of the special document master.

“District courts lack general equity in overseeing federal criminal investigations,” the brief said. “[I]rather, challenges to the government’s use of evidence recovered in a search are resolved through normal criminal motion practice when charges are filed. Here, however, the court granted the extraordinary relief requested by the plaintiff…”.

The Justice Department also argued that Trump had no basis to obstruct the Justice Department’s review of executive branch documents, which itself is part of the executive branch.

Additionally, attorneys for the department noted that Trump never invoked attorney-client privilege over the 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in August that would have justified the appointment of a special master. The Justice Department argued that the filtering procedures it already used were sufficient to protect some sensitive documents from review by investigators.

“[Trump] has no compelling privilege with respect to records containing classification marks or any other government documents related to his official duties,” the Justice Department said.

A federal appeals court last month granted the department’s request to block certain aspects of Cannon’s order. This appeal challenges Cannon’s entire order, which granted Trump’s request to appoint a third party to review documents seized at his Florida estate.

The special master – Raymond Dearie, a senior federal judge based in Brooklyn – has already begun the review process. If the department is ultimately successful in its appeal, the special master could be ordered to halt the review process.

However, this appeal process will take at least a few weeks. Although a federal judge granted the department’s request to expedite the appeal, Trump’s legal team still has until Nov. 10 to file a response, and the 11th Circuit will not schedule oral arguments until the department’s next response on Nov. 17.

As it stands now, the special master review must be completed by Dec. 16, a timeline put in place by Cannon, a Trump appointee.

After the 11th Circuit last month allowed the Justice Department access to about 100 classified documents, Trump filed an emergency petition asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the case. On Thursday, the High Court rejected the plea.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to take over means that, for now, the classified documents will remain out of the special master’s hands.

The department, in its Supreme Court filing, argued that the 11th US Circuit found Cannon “abused its discretion” and caused “a serious and unwarranted intrusion on the Executive Order’s authority to control the use and distribution of highly sensitive government records.”

The DOJ says the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in the FBI search total 21,792 pages. The collection excludes material seized by the FBI, the 100 documents already filtered for privacy and marked as classified for search.

The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, has been working for years to retrieve all records belonging to the federal government that were created under the Trump administration.

NARA’s dealings with Trump and his associates earlier this year led to the return of boxes and envelopes filled with records by former administration officials and lawyers. NARA’s findings in one of those collections prompted a Justice Department investigation into the misuse of classified records and the Mar-a-Lago search in August. NARA said some of the Trump administration’s presidential records remain prominent, citing information that some White House employees used unofficial electronic systems to conduct official business.

The DOJ’s appeal to appoint a special master comes days after CNN reported that a Trump staffer told the FBI that the former president ordered him to move boxes from basement storage to his Mar-a-Lago residence after Trump. the legal team received a subpoena for any classified documents from the Florida estate.

The Trump staffer initially denied handling the documents or boxes at Mar-a-Lago, according to the source. But the FBI developed evidence that led investigators to go back to the witness, who revised their story that Trump had given instructions to move the boxes, the source said.

Evidence of Trump’s actions after the May subpoena, along with the images, could be key to a federal investigation looking into a range of potential crimes, including obstruction, destruction of government records and misuse of classified information.

The Justice Department has previously alleged that classified resort documents were “likely hidden and removed” from the Mar-a-Lago storage facility as part of an effort to “hinder” the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s possible misuse of classified material.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.