11th Circuit Panel Let Feds Resume Review of Classified Records Seized From Mar-a-Lago
- A federal appeals court granted the Justice Department’s request to resume review of classified material seized from Mar-a-Lago.
- The ruling overturned Judge Erin Cannon’s decision, which suspended the review until a special main review.
- The decision appeared to accept the Justice Department’s assertion that further delays in the review would harm national security.
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court granted the Justice Department’s request to resume review of classified material seized from Mar-a-Lago during a search of former President Donald Trump’s home last month.
The ruling, from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, overturned a Trump-appointed judge’s decision that prevented the Justice Department from reviewing the records as part of a criminal investigation into the former president’s handling of government records .
In a 29-page ruling, the 11th Circuit has forcefully rebuked Trump’s suggestion that he had declassified controversial material and rejected what the former president may have had on more than 100 records flagged. personal interests or needs”. as a classification. The decision appeared to fully accept the Justice Department’s argument that further delays in the review of highly sensitive records would jeopardize national security and cause “irreparable harm” to the government and the public.
“It goes without saying that the public has a keen interest in ensuring that the storage of classified records does not result in ‘particularly serious damage to national security,'” the 11th Circuit judge wrote.
“Determining this,” they added, “must involve reviewing documents, determining who has access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods are compromised.”
The 11th Circuit panel includes two Trump-appointed judges — Judges Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant — and Obama-appointed Judge Robin Rosenbaum.
After the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s attorneys argued that outside arbitrators — known as special masters — should have reviewed more than 11,000 confiscated records and screened out potential attorney-client or records protected by executive privilege. Judge Erin Cannon granted the request and appointed Senior Judge Raymond Dearie of the Brooklyn federal trial court to review records and mediate any disputes between Trump’s legal team and the Justice Department .
The Justice Department asked the 11th Circuit late Friday to overturn the part of Cannon’s ruling that prevented review of about 100 classified records, arguing in its appeal that the decision “obstructs the administration’s efforts to protect national security.”
The three-judge 11th Circuit unanimously ruled in the Justice Department’s favor.
“The U.S. also argues that allowing the special director and plaintiffs’ attorneys to inspect classified records, respectively, would cause irreparable harm. We agree,” the three-judge panel wrote.
For Trump, the decision comes after another apparent setback in his response to the FBI search for Mar-a-Lago. During a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Deerey was outraged that Trump’s legal team had rejected his request for evidence to support the former president’s claim that he declassified highly sensitive records found at his residence.
The laws involved in Trump’s handling of sensitive government records — including the Espionage Act — do not require the material to be classified. But Trump still questioned whether he declassified the records.
In the absence of evidence that Trump took that step, Dirie said his only basis for assessing the classification level of records is to clearly label them as national security secrets.
“You can’t eat your cake,” Dilly said.
In Wednesday’s decision, the 11th Circuit appeared to be frustrated by Trump’s lack of evidence that he declassified the disputed records.
“Plaintiff suggested that he may have declassified the documents during his presidency,” the court wrote. “But there is no evidence in the records that any of these records were declassified. Plaintiff refused to provide any evidence that he had declassified the documents before the Special Master.”
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