November 27, 2022

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A panel of appeals court judges signaled Tuesday they are likely to end a special master’s review of documents the Justice Department seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate, echoing arguments by the Trump legal team questioned and expressed skepticism that the President was wrongly targeting the DOJ with his search.

Important facts

Three judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals — two of whom were appointed by Trump — listened to arguments Tuesday after the DOJ appealed a lower court ruling that appointed an outside special master to manage the Mar-A-Lago -Check documents for privileged material.

The 11th Circuit had already sided with the DOJ in a narrower appeals process that allowed classified documents to be excluded from the review of the Special Master and US District Judge Raymond Dearie, but the Special Master is still reviewing an additional 11,000 non-classified documents, eh even the government does want to stop it.

Judges repeatedly questioned Trump’s attorney, Jim Trusty, whether there was any precedent in court to support the ex-president’s arguments against the Justice Department’s removal of documents from Mar-A-Lago, and Judge Britt Grant found that Trump ” didn’t really make much of him “an effort” to show that he needs access to documents seized by the DOJ.

The judges noted that Trump’s legal reasoning rests solely on the fact that it was a former president whose property was searched and would otherwise be “virtually indistinguishable” from any other case in which the target’s property was one investigation was searched.

Judge William H. Pryor, a judge appointed by George W. Bush, said the court “needed to worry about the precedent we would be setting” if we ruled in Trump’s favour, as that opens the floodgates for any target one federal investigation that could be challenged seeks against them in court and “interferes” in a federal investigation.

Pryor also disputed Trusty’s argument that a special master was necessary because non-White House documents — including a photograph of Celine Dion — were among the items seized by the DOJ, noting that he doesn’t “believe that it is absolutely the fault of the government if anyone has secret documents mixed up with any other personal property.”

What to look out for

Dearie’s special major trial is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 16, by which time the court would have to decide to shorten the trial, although the DOJ argued on Tuesday that it’s likely the court case could drag on for months after the Documents have been checked if this is the case The 11th District does not intervene. A ruling in favor of the DOJ would end the special main review and all related litigation, and would mean the government can immediately review unclassified documents seized by Mar-A-Lago. Nor would it be prevented from reviewing materials Trump’s lawyers argue should be protected by executive privilege, which was still being debated in court. If the court does not rule fully in favor of the DOJ, it could potentially rule that the special master’s review should not fully end, but Trump cannot claim executive privilege to block specific documents from the DOJ’s investigation, the DOJ noted in a court filing would make the master’s special test “considerably narrower”.

Surprising fact

Grant and Brasher, the panel’s two Trump-appointed judges, previously ruled against the former president in the Mar-A-Lago documents. They were on the panel of judges that granted the Justice Department’s request to ban classified documents from the master’s special exam, meaning they may be ready to break with the former president and now rule against him again.

key background

Trump asked a federal judge two weeks after the DOJ searched Mar-A-Lago in August to appoint a federal judge who was part of an ongoing investigation into Trump taking White House documents and whether it violated federal law. Federal investigators seized more than 11,000 Mar-A-Lago White House documents — including classified and top-secret materials — during the August search, after Trump previously surrendered only 15 boxes of materials voluntarily and only a small number of additional classified documents in response a summons. Trump-appointed US District Judge Aileen Cannon had granted the ex-president’s request for a special master and appointed Dearie to oversee the review. She ruled that not allowing the review could do Trump “reputational damage” if he were charged based on materials that could have been filtered out. Cannon’s decision was widely criticized by legal experts, and the DOJ went to the 11th judicial circuit after the district judge refused to change their order to bar classified documents from review. This week’s 11th Circuit Court hearing came days after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed John Smith as a special counsel to oversee the DOJ’s investigation into the Mar-A-Lago documents and the fallout from the 2020 election to a Avoiding a conflict of interest after Trump launched his 2024 presidential campaign a week ago. The DOJ said in a court filing to the 11th Circuit that Smith agreed with all of the legal arguments the agency has made to date in the specific Master’s case.

Further reading

Trump Faces DOJ in Mar-a-Lago Special Master Appeal (Bloomberg)

Trump Mar-A-Lago Inquiry: What you need to know as an ex-president goes to the Supreme Court (Forbes)

Appeals Court Will Speed ​​Up Trump Mar-A-Lago Special Master Decision – SIDES DOJ (Forbes)

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