US Justice Department appeals special master ruling in Trump probe
The Justice Department is attempting to overturn a federal judge's decision that barred investigators from reviewing a number of highly sensitive documents seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
The US Justice Department has asked a federal judge to grant it access to documents with classification markings seized from US Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, threatening to appeal to a higher court if he does not.
The demands were contained in a three-page notice of appeal filed by the Justice Department on Thursday in the case involving Trump's request for a "special master," and pave the way for the government to submit comprehensive appeals brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
However, the Justice Department specified in a motion for a stay that it would not appeal the decision if the order for a special master to evaluate classified materials, which had halted the investigation into Trump's illegal retention of government secrets, was reversed.
The Justice Department placed its attention on the classified documents in its motion to stay the order, preventing it from reviewing the seized documents, proclaiming that Trump lacked "possessory interest" in the records, which were the subject of the investigation.
Even if Trump tried to use executive privilege to keep the classified documents out of the evidence cache, the government argued, he couldn't claim a "possessory interest" in state-owned classified documents.
The Justice Department also stated in its motion to stay that, while Cannon ostensibly allowed the ODNI risk assessment to continue, by preventing the government from examining the seized materials until a special master was appointed, it effectively halted that assessment.
According to the filing, the ODNI was reviewing the seized classified documents with intelligence agencies, which included the FBI, as part of the risk assessment.
However, because the FBI is also part of the Justice Department, the intelligence community was unsure how to proceed with its investigation.
The FBI seized approximately 11,000 documents and 48 empty folders with classified markings from Mar-a-Lago. The FBI, for example, was supposed to complete the risk assessment for the empty folders, but Cannon's order halted that review, as per the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, preventing the FBI from using the classified documents "could impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored," according to prosecutors.
Last week, Trump's legal team debated in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, that the "filter teams" were insufficient - an argument Trump appointee Judge Aileen Cannon agreed with - and that a special master is required because the FBI seized some documents which are protected by the executive or attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors have suggested that if Cannon does not grant the requested stay to allow the use of the classified documents by September 15, the government intends to urge the appeals court to do so.