The special case of Mar-a-Lago goes before the Court of Appeal

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Tuesday will hear arguments over whether to halt an independent arbitrator’s review of documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

The Ministry of Justice has asked the Atlanta-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to end the review process, saying the appointment of a so-called special master unnecessarily delayed its investigation into the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Lawyers for Trump want the work of the special master to continue. Both sides will argue in the Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

It wasn’t clear when the court might decide, but a victory for the Justice Department could speed up its investigation by giving prosecutors access to documents they say they need to do their jobs.

The special master, a veteran judge from Brooklyn named Raymond Dearie, was appointed in September at the request of the Trump team. He was commissioned to conduct an independent review of the approximately 13,000 documents confiscated during search on August 8th and screening criminal investigations that may be covered by attorney-client privilege claims or board-client privilege claims.

The Florida judge who appointed him, Aileen Cannon, had prevented federal prosecutors from using the confiscated records as part of their investigation into Dearie’s work. A three-member panel of the Court of Appeals later restored the Ministry of Justice’s access to the approximately 100 documents with a non-disclosure markbut prosecutors say they still want unhindered access to the much larger trove of unclassified records and have asked the court to close the trial entirely.

Although the probe is focused on the possible misuse of classified records, the Justice Department says it also considers the unclassified documents found at Mar-a-Lago to be relevant to the probe. That’s because personal records have been mixed up with classified documents that prosecutors say could provide evidence of ownership or possession.

In court documents, the Justice Department has said the only purpose it has been able to use the unclassified documents for so far was to have a “protracted dispute” with the Trump team over their categorization.

The special master’s procedure runs parallel to ongoing criminal investigations into the storage of documents and possible disabilities.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week Appointed a veteran prosecutor, Jack Smith, to act as special counsel and oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation and key aspects of a separate investigation into efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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