United States asks appeals court to lift stay on Judge Mar-a-Lago’s investigation | PA power and politics


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Friday asked a federal appeals court to drop a judge’s order which temporarily prevented him from examining a batch of classified documents seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month.

The department told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta that the judge’s grip hindered “the government’s efforts to protect the security of the nation” and interfered with its investigation into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago. He said the suspension must be lifted immediately so work can resume.

“The government and the public would suffer irreparable harm if the stay were not granted,” the department’s attorneys wrote in their brief to the appeals court.

The judge’s appointment of a “special master” to review the documents, and the resulting legal tussle, seem certain to further slow the department’s criminal investigation. It remains unclear whether Trump, who laid the groundwork for another possible presidential race, or anyone else could be indicted.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the department to suspend its use of the records until further court order, or until the completion of a report by an independent arbitrator who must do their own inspection of the documents and eliminate any covered by legal lien claims.

On Thursday night, she named Raymond Dearie, the former Brooklyn-based federal court chief justice, to serve as arbitrator — also known as the special master. She also refused to lift an order that prevented the department from using about 100 seized documents marked as classified for its investigation, citing ongoing disputes over the nature of the documents she said merited neutral review.

“The Court does not find it appropriate to accept the government’s findings on these important and contentious issues without further consideration by a neutral third party in a speedy and orderly manner,” she wrote.

Last week, the Justice Department asked Cannon to stay her own order by Thursday and said if she didn’t, it would ask the appeals court to intervene.

The FBI says it took about 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification marks found in a storage room and office, while serving a court-authorized search warrant at the home. Weeks after the search, Trump’s attorneys asked a judge to appoint a special master to conduct an independent review of the records.

In his Sept. 5 order, Cannon agreed to appoint a special master to sift through records and filter out those that could potentially be covered by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

By appointing Dearie Thursday, she gave him access to the entire tranche of documents, including classified records. She ordered him to complete his review by Nov. 30 and prioritize reviewing classified documents, and ordered the Justice Department to allow Trump’s legal team to inspect classified records with “controlled access conditions”.

The Justice Department disagreed with the judge that the special master should be empowered to inspect classified documents. He said the classified records that were seized do not contain any communication between Trump and his attorneys that could be covered by solicitor-client privilege, and said the former president could not credibly cite the privilege of the executive to protect government documents that do not belong to him from investigation.

Although the department argued that its work was unduly hampered by the judge’s order, Cannon disagreed, noting in its order Thursday that officials could pursue other aspects of their investigation, such as the questioning of witnesses.


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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