On Friday, the Justice Department asked an appeals court to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to regain access to approximately one hundred sensitive documents that were taken from former President Donald J. Trump’s residence in Florida. However, the department did not attempt to block the appointment of an outside arbiter to review other materials.
The department asked the appeals court not to submit the approximately 100 files marked as classified through the vetting process of the arbiter, also known as a special master. In exchange, the department agreed to the review of 11,000 other documents seized from Mr. Trump’s home and resort, Mar-a-Lago. The department’s request was contained in a filing that was 29 pages long. As the investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of the records continues, the review has prevented the government from gaining access to the information.
The lawsuit was the most recent development in what started out as a legal sideshow to the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s stockpiling of federal papers, including some that were designated as highly sensitive, and unwillingness to surrender them, even after being subpoenaed to do so.
Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a federal judge whom Mr. Trump appointed in 2020, issued a decision last week in which she granted his request that she impose a special master to vet all of the material seized from Mar-a-Lago for both attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. This decision was made in response to his request that she impose the special master. She forbade any law enforcement agency from utilising any of the records for purposes of conducting criminal investigations until such time as the task was completed.
The Justice Department had first requested that the section of Judge Cannon’s order that prevented it from making full investigative use of the approximately one hundred files with classification markings be stayed, but on Thursday, she declined to comply with that request. Because of this, officials from the law enforcement agencies asked the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta to order a stay rather than a ruling.
The proposal was characterised as “small but extremely essential” in the document that the agency submitted. It was stated that “the government and the public would suffer irreparable harm absent a stay.” This was due to the fact that efforts to fully understand the effects of the haphazard storage of documents bearing classification markings could not proceed unless the decision of the lower court was partially reversed.
It also contended that denying agents access to the materials “unduly interferes” with the criminal investigation into suspected breaches of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice.
On the other hand, the department said that Mr. Trump would not be harmed in any way if the government were to recover and investigate documents that should not have been in his hands to begin with.
Raymond J. Dearie, a judge in semi-retirement from the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York who has expertise in extremely sensitive cases related to national security, was selected by Judge Cannon to serve as a special master on Thursday.
The legal team representing President Trump had recommended Judge Dearie, and the administration has said that it has no issues to his nomination in the event that their appeal is denied. Judge Dearie made his first official move as special master on Friday, when he asked Mr. Trump’s attorneys and the Justice Department to send him “proposed agenda items” on Monday, prior to an initial meeting about the document review that will take place on Tuesday at the Brooklyn federal courthouse. This was Judge Dearie’s first move as special master.
In its argument, the department provided the most in-depth explanation to date of why it believes that the intertwined criminal investigation and national security assessment will be hampered if Judge Cannon’s blocking of immediate access to the documents marked as classified is allowed to stand. This was done in the context of explaining why the department believes this to be the case.
According to the department, Judge Cannon was thwarting efforts to identify any potential patterns in the types of records that Mr. Trump kept by prohibiting criminal investigators from analysing the contents of the documents or using them to conduct witness interviews. He also forbade investigators from using the documents to conduct witness interviews. The finding during the search by the F.B.I. of empty folders for classified information prompted the question of whether or not there are any more documents that may still be missing. Such insights may help locate any other records that may still be missing.