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Department of Justice Investigating Documents Taken from Mar-a-Lago

A request to stay portions of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon from the Justice Department has been granted by a panel of judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This ruling had effectively paused the government’s investigation into Donald Trump’s possible mishandling of classified records after his presidency. 

Comprised of two Trump appointees and a Barack Obama appointee, the three-judge panel ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the Justice Department is no longer enjoined from investigating the classified documents that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago and will no longer have to submit those materials to special master Ray Dearie for his review. 

The panel wrote in its ruling, “[Trump] has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents.” 

The judges and Justice Department both agreed that Trump had submitted no record or claim that he ever declassified the documents – which undercut Trump’s statements on social media. His team did not say as much when pressed by Dearie during a separate hearing on Tuesday. 

The judges wrote, “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal. So even if we assumed that Plaintiff did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them.” 

Judge Cannon, who was nominated by Trump, granted his request earlier this month for a special master to review what was taken by the FBI in a court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago last month. 

As ordered by Cannon, the special master’s review was to be for items that might be covered by both attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, even though Trump is a former president and has never had the privilege over any specific records. 

Cannon’s ruling was widely criticized by legal experts with a range of political views since it enjoined the government from further use of the seized documents as part of its criminal investigation. Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr was among these critics as well.


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