Appeals court says FBI can use all documents seized in Mar-a-Lago probe, ends special master audit

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned a Florida federal judge’s ruling that barred the FBI from using nearly all documents seized during the Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club Trump. further the criminal investigation into the former president.

In an unsigned opinion, Chief Judge William Pryor and District Judges Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant wrote that Judge Cannon never had the authority to hear a civil case filed by Mr. Trump aimed at stopping the use of the documents as they investigated the FBI and the Department of Justice. if he had violated the criminal laws against unlawful retention of national defense information and obstruction of justice.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the warrant is executed. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” they wrote. “Either approach would be a radical overhaul of our case law that would limit the involvement of federal courts in criminal investigations. Both would violate the fundamental limitations of the separation of powers.”

The court’s ruling comes just a week after the panel heard arguments in the government’s appeal of Judge Cannon’s ruling in September that prevents the FBI and Justice Department from using nearly all of the more than 10,000 government documents that FBI agents had recovered by Palm The beach mansion became a private club, where Trump maintains his primary residence and official post-presidential office.

Judge Cannon issued the unprecedented ruling after Trump’s lawyers argued that it was necessary to appoint a special third-party master who could review all the documents and determine whether any of them were protected by attorney-client or executive privilege, even though the Mr. Trump is not a lawyer and has not been able to invoke executive privilege against the executive branch since his term as president ended on January 20, 2021.

The 11th Circuit had previously reversed part of its decision regarding about 100 documents that were classified to allow the FBI and the US Intelligence Community to assess the damage to national security from Mr Trump’s decision to keep o Highly sensitive materials — some classified as “top secret” — in non-secure storage.

But this latest court ruling overturns her earlier ruling and puts an end to the special master review, which is being overseen by a New York federal judge, Raymond Dearie. While Trump may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, it is unlikely the high court will allow Judge Cannon’s decision to stand.

The end of the special master review means the FBI and Justice Department can move forward with the criminal investigation against Mr. Trump, which is now being overseen by the special counsel, Jack Smith.

In their 21-page opinion, the justices said Mr. Trump had not satisfied any of the requirements that must have been met before Judge Cannon could issue an order to block the investigation in any way, and said Mr. Trump’s arguments .Trump were asking them to rewrite US criminal law in a way that would allow any subject of a criminal investigation to step in and prevent the government from legally using evidence against them.

“It asks us to disregard our precedents, finding that callous disregard for constitutional rights is necessary. It asks us to conclude that a property interest in a forfeiture is a sufficient “necessity” for its immediate return. It asks us to treat any stigma resulting from government access to sensitive personal information or the threat of possible prosecution as irreparable injuries. And he asks us to find that he has no remedy other than equitable jurisdiction even though he faces no reparable harm,” they noted before noting that accepting Mr. Trump’s arguments would force courts to “oversee ordinary criminal investigations beyond ​​from their constitutionally defined role. authorization of a search warrant based on proof of probable cause”.

“Our precedents do not permit it, and neither does our constitutional structure,” they wrote, adding that the only possible justification for Judge Cannon’s ruling was Mr. Trump’s status as a former president.

But the fact that Mr. Trump was once president of the United States could have nothing to do with their interpretation of the law, the judges said. Creating a special exception for Mr Trump because of the position he once held “would defy our Nation’s fundamental principle that our law applies to all, regardless of number, wealth or rank”, they added.

Because the court agreed with the government’s contention that Judge Cannon had improperly exceeded her authority, the panel granted the Justice Department’s request that the entire case be withdrawn.

More to come…

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