Politics

Trump opposes Justice Dept’s request to expedite appeal of special master ruling

Former President Donald Trump opposed the Justice Department’s request Friday that the 11th Circuit Court expedite the appeal of a federal court’s ruling that a special master, or independent party, review documents seized from Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, in August. 

Lawyers for Trump argued he would be unfairly prejudiced by a shortened schedule, which included shorter deadlines and oral arguments at the court’s “earliest convenience.”.

“No good cause has been shown as to why President Trump should have significantly less time than the Government and less time than that provided under the Rules to prepare and brief his arguments before this Court in this unprecedented case,” Trump’s legal team wrote Monday. 

On Friday, the Justice Department filed a motion with the 11th Circuit proposing a schedule that would require briefs to be filed by the department by Oct. 14, a response by Trump by Nov. 4 and and a reply by the Justice Department by Nov. 11. Oral argument, the Justice Department said, could begin after the briefs were filed. But Trump lawyers claimed Monday that oral argument should be held months later, in January 2023 “or later.”

The government argued for an expedited appeal because there’s no need to “analyze an extensive factual record.” Prosecutors say there are two questions to consider: 1) whether Judge Aileen Cannon was wrong in concluding she had the authority to grant Trump’s motion for a special master; and 2) whether Cannon erred in barring the government from reviewing or using the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation, “pending a months-long special master’s process” to consider, for example, Trump’s executive privilege claims. 

The Justice Department is arguing in part that the lower court does not have the power to impede the investigation of a criminal proceeding, that is, its investigation of whether Trump mishandled White House records.

Trump sued the Justice Department in August after investigators executed a search warrant at his Florida residence earlier that month, seizing 33 boxes containing thousands of pages of documents, including over 100 with classified markings like SECRET and TOP SECRET. In conjunction with the lawsuit, Trump’s legal team asked federal Judge Aileen Cannon to both appoint a special master to review the seized materials for any privileged documents and prevent investigators from using the materials pending that review. 

Cannon granted Trump’s requests, appointing Judge Raymond Dearie as special master and stopping the FBI from using the documents in their probe. The Justice Department appealed that decision and obtained a stay, successfully convincing a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit to unanimously agree that the 103 documents with classified markings seized from Mar-a-Lago should be used in the ongoing criminal matter even as the special master review got underway. 

Delays in Dearie’s review, however, continue to complicate matters for prosecutors during what they characterized as a “national security” probe into potential mishandling of government documents. 

The Special Master set a schedule for his own review and asked Trump’s team to list its specific privilege-based objections to the seizure of materials.  The former president’s legal team objected and successfully persuaded Cannon to overrule her own special master’s rulings.

The Justice Department’s request to appeal the entire special master ruling on a faster timeline argued such proposed speed served the “interest of justice,” as the documents from which investigators remained barred might also contain evidence of potential criminal violations, like the unlawful retention of government property. 

Trump’s objection to the timetable would take Appeals Court oral arguments on the matter into next year. 

In addition to documents seized during the August 8 search, prosecutors already have access to other documents that they say were improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago, including those collected by prosecutors in June after a Grand Jury issued a subpoena in May “seeking documents bearing classification markings” in Trump’s possession at Mar-a-Lago. 

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