US Department of Justice opposes Trump’s Supreme Court request for documents

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to reject former President Donald Trump’s bid to re-empower an independent arbitrator to verify classified records seized from his home in Florida in its legal battle against investigators investigating its handling of sensitive government documents.

Trump filed a emergency request on October 4 asking the judges to lift a federal appeals court decision to prevent the arbitrator, known as the special master, from checking more than 100 documents marked as classified that were among the approximately 11,000 records seized by FBI agents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on August 8.

In a filing Tuesday, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject Trump’s request because he failed to point out any “palpable error” in the lower court’s decision or show how he is aggrieved by it.

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Trump went to court on August 22 in an effort to restrict the Justice Department’s access to documents as it pursues a criminal investigation into him for keeping government records, some marked as highly classified, including top secret, at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office. in January 2021. Trump then asked a judge to appoint a special master, as the judge later did, to review the seized documents and consider whether any could be considered privileged and potentially hidden from investigators.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump-appointed justices.

On September 21, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, stayed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over Trump’s trial. Cannon had temporarily barred the Justice Department from reviewing seized documents until the special master she appointed, Judge Raymond Dearie, had identified those who could be considered privileged.

Cannon had instructed Dearie to review all seized records, including classified records, to locate anything subject to attorney-client confidentiality or executive privilege — a legal doctrine that protects certain White House communications from disclosure. – and therefore prohibited to investigators.

The three-judge 11th Circuit panel gave the department access to documents marked as classified for its ongoing criminal investigation and barred Dearie from checking them, noting the importance of limiting access to classified information and to ensure that the department’s investigation would not be prejudiced.

“UNJUSTIFIED INTRUSION”

Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, on September 5 barred the Justice Department from reviewing any documents seized for its criminal investigation and appointed Dearie to review the records.

In Tuesday’s filing, the Justice Department said Trump’s request should be dismissed because it has failed to show that the 11th Circuit erred in its conclusion that Cannon’s order “was an intrusion serious and unjustified in the authority of the executive to control the use and distribution of highly sensitive government records.”

Trump’s lawyers have previously told the Supreme Court that Dearie should be able to check records to “determine whether documents bearing classification marks are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are records.” personal or presidential records”.

The Justice Department has “attempted to criminalize a document management dispute and now vehemently opposes a transparent process that provides much-needed oversight,” Trump’s attorneys added.

The department’s investigation aims to determine who accessed classified documents, whether they were compromised and whether any remain. At issue in the 11th Circuit’s ruling were documents bearing classified marks of confidential, secret or top secret.

The department is also investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct the criminal investigation. Trump denied any wrongdoing and called the investigation politically motivated.

The documentary survey is one of the several legal setbacks Trump faces as he plans to run for president again in 2024.

September 15, Cannon rejected the department’s request that she partially lift her order as it related to classified documents, as it hindered the government’s efforts to mitigate potential national security risks from possible unauthorized disclosure.

The 11th Circuit suspended that decision, noting that the classified documents belong to the US government and that Trump had not demonstrated that he had an “individual interest in or need for” any of the classified documents.

The 11th Circuit also dismissed any suggestion that Trump declassified the documents – as the former president claimed – saying there was ‘no evidence’ of such action and that the argument was a “red herring because the declassification of an official document would not change its content. or make it personal.”

The three laws underlying the search warrant used by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago make it a crime to mishandle government records, regardless of their classification status.

In an interview on Fox News last month, Trump claimed he had the power to declassify documents “even on second thought.”

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Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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