A federal appeals court struck down a special master’s review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in a Thursday ruling.
The three-panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling overturned the appointment of a special master by US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who granted Trump’s request for a third party to temporarily halt the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation into the thousands of classified and top secret documents seized by the FBI in August.
“The law is clear,” the court’s ruling read. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”
Trump’s attorneys are likely to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, Reuters reported. James Trusty, an attorney representing Trump, said that appointing a special master does not interfere with the DOJ’s investigation, and further argued the FBI raid on his home was conducted in a “carte blanche” manner by allegedly taking personal items such as golf shirts, according to the Washington Post.
In early September, Trump’s attorneys filed a motion arguing that the Justice Department did not identify all of the possible legally privileged documents. After Cannon ruled in Trump’s favor, the DOJ appealed the case with the argument that he does not have legal standing to halt the investigation. (RELATED: Trump Legal Team Responds To DOJ Over Special Master Dispute)
“[Trump] does not and could not assert that he owns or has any possessory interest in classified records; that he has any right to have those government records returned to him; or that he can advance any plausible claims of attorney-client privilege as to such records that would bar the government from reviewing or using them.”
The 11th Circuit lifted Cannon’s stay on the investigation, allowing the DOJ to continue its investigation in a Sept. 21 ruling. The former president then turned to the Supreme Court in a motion specifically addressed to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, which argued that the court “lacked jurisdiction” to halt the order. The court struck down his request in an Oct. 13 ruling without comment.
The DOJ is investigating 11 sets of classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago—four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three more of confidential documents. A highly redacted affidavit released by the DOJ on Aug. 26 revealed that 14 of the 15 boxes retrieved by the National Archives and Record Administration in January consisted of 184 documents – 25 of the documents had “top secret” markings, 92 were labeled “secret” and 67 had a “confidential” warning.
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly argued that all of the documents were declassified and kept in “secured storage.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Nov. 18 announcement that he appointed a special counsel named Jack Smith to oversee the investigation into the documents and Jan. 6.