The court is taking Mar-a-Lago’s record
The court is taking Mar-a-Lago’s record

The court is taking Mar-a-Lago’s record

WASHINGTON (AP) – In a strong rejection of Donald Trump’s legal arguments, a federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the Justice Department to resume its use of classified records seized from the former president’s Florida estate as part of its ongoing criminal investigation.

The ruling by three judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a major victory for the Justice Department, clearing the way for investigators to continue examining the documents as they consider indictment. guilty of keeping Mar-a-Lago top secret after Trump left the White House. Upholding the central part of the department’s investigation, the court ruled out a hurdle that could have delayed the investigation for weeks.

The appeals court also pointed out that Trump has not presented any evidence that he has leaked sensitive records, as he continued as recently as Wednesday, and rejected the possibility that Trump “has a personal interest or need” in nearly 100 documents with classified information seized by the FBI on August 8 during a search of a Palm Beach property.

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify it by saying ‘declassified.’ Even thinking about it…You’re the president, you make that decision,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel that was taped Wednesday ahead of the appeals court’s ruling.

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The government argued that its investigation was hindered, and national security concerns were overruled, by an order from US District Judge Aileen Cannon that temporarily barred investigators from continuing to use the documents in their investigation. Cannon, a Trump appointee, said the hold would remain in place while an independent judge she appointed conducts a special review of the Trump team’s request to review the records.

The appeals committee agreed with the Justice Department’s concerns.

“It is clear that the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of classified records does not cause ‘substantial harm to national security,'” they wrote. “Ensuring that,” they added, “of course involves reviewing documents, determining who had access and when, and determining (if any) the sources or processes that were breached.”

An order that delays or prevents criminal investigations “to use classified materials risks imposing real and substantial harm on the United States and the public,” they wrote.

Two of the three judges who issued Wednesday’s ruling — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher — were appointed by Trump to the 11th Circuit. Judge Robin Rosenbaum was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

Attorneys for Trump did not return an email seeking comment on whether they are appealing the ruling. The Justice Department had no comment.

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The FBI last month seized nearly 11,000 documents, including about 100 trademarks, during a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach club. It has launched a criminal investigation into whether records were mishandled or hacked, although it is unclear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.

Cannon ruled Sept. 5 that it will appoint an independent arbitrator, or special master, to conduct an independent review of those records and rule out any claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege and to decide that one of the items should be returned to Trump.

Raymond Dearie, a former federal court judge based in Brooklyn, was appointed to the role and had his first meeting on Tuesday with lawyers for both sides.

The Justice Department argued that special review of classified documents was unnecessary. It said Trump had no reasonable basis to invoke executive privilege over the documents, and the records were not covered by attorney-client privilege because they did not involve communications between Trump and his lawyers.

It also challenged Cannon’s order requiring him to give Dearie and Trump’s lawyers access to classified materials. The court sided with the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying “courts should order review of such materials only in extraordinary circumstances. The record does not permit the conclusion that this is such a case.”

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Although Trump’s lawyers have said the president has full authority to declassify the information, they have stopped short of specifically proving that the information was leaked. Trump’s team this week declined to provide Dearie with any information to support the idea that the records may have been classified, saying the matter could be part of their defense in the event of an indictment.

The Justice Department said there was no indication that Trump had taken any steps to declassify the documents and even included a photo of one court filing of some of the seized documents with a color sheet showing it. their secret status. The Court of Appeal, too, made the same point.

“The plaintiff suggests that he may have disclosed these documents when he was president. But the record does not contain any evidence that any of these records have been disclosed,” the judges wrote. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the classification argument is a red herring because the definition of an official document will not change the content or It doesn’t make it personal.”


Colvin reported from New York.

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