US Circuit Court of Appeals ends review of Mar-a-Lago document master

The decision is a significant victory for federal prosecutors and paves the way for them to use all documents seized during an Aug. 8 FBI search in Mar-a-Lago.

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Thursday ended an independent review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, removing a hurdle that the Justice Department said had delayed its criminal investigation into storing top secret government information.

The three-judge panel’s decision represents a significant win for federal prosecutors and paves the way for them to use the full tranche of documents seized during the trial in their investigations an FBI search of Mar-a-Lag on August 8th O. It also amounts to a sharp rejection of arguments by Trump’s lawyers, who for months have said the former president is entitled to a so-called “special master” to conduct an impartial review of the thousands of documents from the estate.

The Atlanta-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling for the 11th Circuit came amid skeptical questions judges put to a Trump attorney during last week’s altercations, and because two of the panel’s three judges had already ruled in favor, expected the Justice Department in an earlier dispute over the special master.

The particular main dispute has played out alongside an ongoing investigation into the possible criminal misuse of national defense information and efforts to potentially obstruct that investigation. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month appointed Jack Smith, a veteran corruption prosecutor, as the special counsel to oversee this investigation.

It remains unclear how long the investigation will continue or who, if any, will be charged. But the investigation has shown signs of intensifying, with investigators questioning several Trump associates about the documents and granting a key ally immunity to ensure his testimony before a federal grand jury. And the appeals court decision will likely expedite the investigation by shortening the external review of the records.

The conflict over the special master began just weeks after the FBI search, when Trump sued in federal court in Florida, seeking the appointment of an independent arbitrator to review the roughly 13,000 documents the Justice Department said were stolen from the home.

A federal judge, Aileen Cannon, granted the Trump team’s request, appointing veteran Brooklyn judge Raymond Dearie as special master and directing him to review the seized records and filter out any documents from the criminal investigation that might have been linked to claims of Executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

She also barred the Justice Department from using the confiscated records, including the approximately 100 with classification marks, in its criminal investigations until Dearie completed his work.

The Justice Department disagreed with the appointment, saying it was an unnecessary impediment to his criminal investigation and that Trump had no credible basis for invoking attorney-client privilege or executive branch privilege to protect the records from investigators.

As a first step, she tried to regain access to the classified information. A federal appeals panel sided with prosecutors in September, allowing the Justice Department to resume its review of classified documents.

The department also pushed for access to the much larger trove of unclassified documents, saying such records could contain important evidence for their investigation. US Circuit Court of Appeals ends review of Mar-a-Lago document master

Laura Coffey

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