Former president Donald Trump
Erin Scott | Reuters
Lawyers for Donald Trump urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to reject a Department of Justice bid to resume its review of documents marked classified that were seized from the previous president’s Florida home last month as a part of a criminal investigation.
The filing within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the eleventh Circuit got here hours before attorneys for Trump and the DOJ were set to look in federal court in Brooklyn, Latest York, to talk with the special master who was appointed to look at the records seized from Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president’s Palm Beach resort home.
That independent third party, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, was chosen last week by Trump appointee Judge Aileen Cannon to review the materials to discover personal records and knowledge that might be protected by various legal privileges. The DOJ opposed the appointment of a special master, arguing partly that it was unnecessary.
Dearie called attorneys for Trump and the DOJ to the Brooklyn federal courthouse on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET for a preliminary conference. Trump’s lawyers in a Monday night filing told Dearie that they don’t need to speak in confidence to him which documents may or may not have been declassified by the previous president.
In authorizing the special master earlier this month, Cannon temporarily stopped the DOJ from reviewing or using the seized material for the investigation.
The DOJ appealed, asking the eleventh Circuit to lift the a part of Cannon’s order barring the usage of government records bearing classification markings and requiring the federal government to reveal those records to the special master.
Cannon’s orders “are a smart preliminary step toward restoring order from chaos, and this Court should subsequently deny the Government’s Motion,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing Tuesday responding to the DOJ’s request.
The FBI raided Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, in search of materials showing violations of laws against obstruction of justice and the removal of official records, in addition to the U.S. Espionage Act.
The federal agents seized greater than 100 documents with classified markings in that raid, the DOJ later revealed. Court documents also revealed that the FBI found 4 dozen empty folders marked “CLASSIFIED” through the raid. Greater than 10,000 U.S. government documents and images without classification markings were also seized.
Trump and his allies have argued in interviews and on social media that he declassified all the federal government records that were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s attorneys didn’t echo that claim in Tuesday’s court filing. They argued as a substitute that the DOJ has not proven that the documents are classified, and asserted that a president “has absolute authority to declassify any information.”
In a footnote, Trump’s lawyers added, “The actual fact the documents contain classification markings doesn’t necessarily negate privilege claims.” They pointed to the proven fact that, in accordance with the probable cause affidavit used to acquire the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, some documents with classified markings also include Trump’s handwritten notes.
“Those notes could definitely contain privileged information,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.