The FBI searched the property of former President Donald Trump in Florida, and on Tuesday, a federal appeals court is hearing arguments about whether to stop an independent arbiter’s assessment of the records that were found there.
The Justice Department claims that the assignment of a so-called special master has needlessly delayed its inquiry into the existence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, to put an end to the review procedure. Trump’s legal team wants the work of the special master to continue. The appeals court will hear arguments from both sides on Tuesday.
It was unclear when the court would rule, but if the Justice Department won, prosecutors would have access to the papers they claim they need for their work, which would hasten the probe.
The Trump campaign requested the appointment of the special master, Raymond Dearie, a seasoned Brooklyn judge, in September. He was tasked with performing an independent review of the roughly 13,000 documents collected during the search on August 8 and removing any that might be exempt from the criminal investigation due to claims of presidential privilege or attorney-client privilege.
During the course of Dearie’s employment, the Florida judge who assigned him, Aileen Cannon, had prohibited federal prosecutors from utilizing the confiscated information as a part of their probe. The Justice Department’s access to the roughly 100 documents with classification markings was later reinstated by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, but prosecutors maintain that they still want unrestricted access to the vast majority of unredacted records and have requested that the court end the process altogether.
Although the focus of the inquiry is on the potential improper handling of classified materials, the Justice Department asserts that the unclassified documents found at Mar-a-Lago are also pertinent to the case. The reason for this is that personal records and classified documents were mixed together, which according to the prosecution might be used as proof of ownership or possession.
According to court records, the Justice Department’s only use of the unclassified documents to date has been to engage in a “prolonged dispute” with the Trump campaign about their classification.
A continuing criminal investigation into the preservation of the documents and potential obstruction has been taking place concurrently with the special master process.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, a seasoned prosecutor, to act as special counsel and head the Mar-a-Lago inquiry as well as significant portions of a separate investigation investigating attempts to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election.
More on this story via The Western Journal