U.S. appeals court says Trump criminal probe can resume classified records review

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WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department can resume review of classified records seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, in a push into whether they were Existing criminal investigations. mishandled or damaged.

The Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit granted federal prosecutors’ request to block U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s stay, barring them from using classified documents in the investigation until a person called a special master An independent arbitrator reviews the material to weed out anything that might be considered privileged and withheld by investigators.

The appeals court also said it would agree to quash part of a lower court order requiring the government to turn over classified records for review by a special supervisor.

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“We conclude that the United States will suffer irreparable damage from district courts restricting its access to this narrow and potentially critical set of materials and court requests for the United States to submit classified records to the Special Director for review,” the three said. The panel of judges wrote.

The panel wrote that the decision was “limited in nature” because the Justice Department only requested a partial stay pending appeal, and the panel was unable to decide on the merits of the case itself.

The three justices who made the decision were Robin Rosenbaum, appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama, and Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, appointed by Trump.

Trump’s lawyers are likely to ask the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, including the three justices he has appointed, to intervene.

In the filing on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers urged the court to stay the course and allow them to review all seized material, including those marked classified, under the supervision of special chief U.S. Judge Raymond Derie.

A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment. Trump’s lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.

In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump reiterated his claims, but there was no evidence he declassified the documents, saying he had the right to do so “even if he thought about it.”

The FBI conducted a court-sanctioned search on August 2. More than 11,000 documents were seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on Tuesday, about 100 of which were marked classified.

The search is part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally took documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 after a failed 2020 re-election bid, and whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Cannon himself was a Trump appointee, at Trump’s request, appointing Derek as the special master in the case, despite the Justice Department’s opposition to the special master.

Cannon asked Dearie to review all material, including classified material, so he could distinguish anything that might be subject to attorney-client or executive privilege — a legal doctrine that protects certain White House communications from disclosure.

Trump’s lawyers, however, made no such request in any of their legal filings, and at a hearing in Derie on Tuesday, they rejected his request to provide evidence that Trump had declassified any records.read more

While the appellate court emphasized the narrow scope of its ruling, it appeared to have castigated Cannon’s ruling and many of Trump’s legal arguments from top to bottom.

“[Trump]He didn’t even try to show that he needed to know the information contained in the classified documents, the judges wrote. “Nor has he demonstrated that the current government has waived its demands for these documents.”

The Justice Department has also previously vehemently opposed Cannon’s request for Derie to review the seized records for documents that may contain executive privilege, arguing that Trump is a former president and the records do not belong to him.

However, although it disagreed, the Justice Department did not appeal that part of Cannon’s order. It is unclear whether prosecutors can individually seek to appeal other parts of Cannon’s ruling on the special chief appointment.

“We decide only on traditional fairness considerations, including whether the United States has demonstrated a good chance of prevailing on the merits, the harm the parties may suffer from the stay, and where the public interest lies,” the appeals court said.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Mike Scarcella and Jacqueline Thomsen; Editing by Leslie Adler and Shri Navaratnam

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