Former U.S. President Donald Trump makes a fist while reacting to applause after speaking at the North Carolina GOP convention dinner in Greenville, North Carolina, June 5, 2021.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters
Former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to intervene in a dispute over the Department of Justice’s review of documents seized by the FBI during a raid on his Florida residence.
Trump in a court filing urged the Supreme Court to vacate a ruling last week by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which allowed the DOJ to resume using classified documents seized in the raid as part of its ongoing criminal probe of Trump.
Lawyers for the former president argue that the 11th Circuit lacks “jurisdiction to review, much less stay” an order from a lower federal court judge, who had appointed a third-party watchdog to examine all of the seized documents before the DOJ was allowed to use them in its investigation. That watchdog was himself blocked from reviewing documents marked classified by the 11th Circuit’s ruling.
The Aug. 8 raid uncovered more than 10,000 government documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. More than 100 of those documents were marked classified or highly classified, according to court records.
The raid came after months of effort by the federal government to get Trump to return documents the government believed he might have taken when he left office in early 2021. By law, government documents held by the White House must be given to the National Archives and Records Administration when a president leaves office.
Weeks after the raid, Trump asked a federal judge in Florida, Aileen Cannon, to appoint a so-called special master to review the documents seized in the search. The special master would determine if any of the records should be withheld from use in the DOJ’s criminal probe on the grounds they are protected by the attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
Cannon granted that request, appointing Judge Raymond Dearie, who sits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, as special master. At the same time, Cannon temporarily blocked the DOJ from using any of the documents for investigative purposes.
Federal prosecutors then appealed to the 11th Circuit, asking that court to lift Cannon’s order as it applied to the classified material seized in the raid. A three-judge panel in the appeals court unanmiously granted that bid.
In their filing Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court ruling, Trump’s lawyers said Cannon’s appointment of a special master “is simply not appealable on an interlocutory basis.” An interlocutory appeal seeks to reverse a lower court’s ruling when a case is still pending, as opposed to after it ended.
“Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay of the Special Master Order, effectively compromising the integrity of the well-established policy against piecemeal appellate review and ignoring the District Court’s broad discretion without justification,” the filing said.
“This unwarranted stay should be vacated as it impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
The attorneys also said that any limit on the special master conducting a comprehensive review of the documents “erodes public confidence in our system of justice.”
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