Mar-a-Lago probe: Procedural legal battle over documents continues in 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
The procedural battle over Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents continued Tuesday as the Justice Department and the former president’s legal team faced off before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit of Atlanta.
Government prosecutors on Tuesday pressed 11th Circuit judges to end U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s plan to have a court-appointed special master review thousands of documents seized during the raid without FBI precedents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. .
Cannon appointed Raymond Dearie to serve as a special master to sift through the records, looking for documents possibly covered by the attorney-client privilege.
“[Trump] “He has not shown the need for the documents,” said government prosecutor Sopan Joshi. “The plaintiff has access to all but the classified documents. … He has shown that what he wants is not the documents but to prevent the government from using them.”
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Trump’s defense team, however, returned to the argument that the Mar-a-Lago attack left the country in an unprecedented situation.
“I would start with the broader premise that there is no situation in the history of our country where a sitting president would authorize a raid on the home of a former president,” said Trump’s defense attorney, Jim Trusty.
“Raid?” One of the judges asked.
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“Sorry,” Trusty said. “The execution of an order.”
Trusty urged the court to allow Cannon to appoint a special master, noting that they are currently “in a process that this judge has created.”
The panel, however, seemed skeptical.
“We have to worry about the precedent we would set,” one judge said. “Any target could walk into a court and have them accept these kinds of requests and interfere with the ongoing investigation of the executive branch.”
The three-judge panel for today’s hearing was randomly selected and consisted of Judge William Pryor, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Judge Britt Grant and Judge Andrew Brasher, both appointed by the former president trump
The three-judge bench did not issue a ruling from the bench.
Meanwhile, Special Master Dearie has summoned government prosecutors and Trump’s defense for a status conference in Federal Court in Brooklyn on December 1.
Trusty said the process is nearly complete, with both sides in disagreement on 930 documents. The parties disagree as to whether executive privilege would apply to these documents.
Tuesday’s hearing came just days after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former DOJ official Jack Smith as special counsel to take over the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the withholding of presidential records in the Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
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Smith will also oversee the DOJ’s investigation into the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.
It’s unclear which documents Smith has seen, but the Justice Department has roughly 100 of the documents the government considers classified.
FBI agents seized classified records from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home during the agency’s unprecedented Aug. 8 raid, including some marked top secret, according to a warrant and a receipt of ownership.
Trump and his legal team have said records kept at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified when Trump was in the White House, but the Justice Department argues that Trump illegally kept national defense information at his home.
According to the property receipt, FBI agents took approximately 20 boxes of items from the facility, including a set of documents marked “Miscellaneous Classified Documents/TS/SCI,” which refer to information top secret/sensitive compartmentalized.
Records covered by this level of government classification could include human intelligence and information that, if disclosed, could endanger relations between the US and other nations, as well as the lives of intelligence officers in the foreigner However, the classification also includes national security information related to the daily operations of the President of the United States.
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The government conducted the search in response to what it believes is a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — Collection, transmission, or loss of defense information; 18 USC 2071 — Concealment, removal, or mutilation; and 18 USC 1519 – Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
The allegation of “collecting, transmitting or losing defense information” is framed under the Espionage Act.
The former president and his team continue to dispute the classification and believe the information and records have been declassified.
With Smith’s appointment as special counsel, it is unclear how long Dearie will remain as special master.