The Justice Department is asking a court to overturn an order preventing it from reviewing classified documents seized from the ex-president’s Florida home.
The US Department of Justice has asked a federal appeals court to resume its review of classified materials seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.
In the filing before the US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, the Justice Department said it should overturn a previous ruling that prevented prosecutors from relying on classified documents in their criminal investigations.
The department also requested that a third party be appointed to investigate all records taken in the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach after his presidency ended.
After last month’s unprecedented search of the former president’s property, the Justice Department said it was investigating the illegal keeping of government records — some classified as top secret, including “top secret” — as well as obstructing a federal investigation.
The Justice Department must now convince the Atlanta-based Court of Appeals by a conservative majority to side with it in the investigation. Trump’s appointments make up six of the court’s 11 active judges.
The government’s request comes after U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday denied the same Justice Department requests.
Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020, said she will tell senior US judge Raymond Dearie, who is filling the role of “special master” in the case, that he has used the classified records in his review, which she said on November determined should prioritize completing 30 deadline.
Among the 11,000 records collected in the FBI’s Aug. 8 court-authorized search of the former president were about 100 classified documents.
If Cannon’s verdict stands, experts say, it would likely stall the Justice Department’s investigation into these classified records.
Delaying review of the classified documents, which are state property, “hampers the government’s efforts to protect the security of the nation,” the Justice Department said.
The government’s filing at times directly challenged Cannon’s previous decisions in the case.
Prosecutors said the judge cited court filings from Trump’s attorneys that suggested the former president could have released the documents marked confidential, but those legal briefs stopped Trump from doing so.
“The court erred in granting extraordinary relief on the basis of unsubstantiated possibilities,” the government attorneys wrote.
The Justice Department also criticized Cannon’s order that secret recordings be disclosed to Dearie and Trump’s attorneys as part of an outside review of all records taken in the search, and described the former president’s attorneys as potential witnesses to “relevant events” in the criminal investigation.
The appeal will first be heard by a panel of three judges, but could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.
Trump is facing increasing legal pressure as the Justice Department says top secret documents were “likely hidden” to hamper an FBI investigation into his possible misuse of classified materials.
He has denied any wrongdoing and said the raid on his mansion was “one of the most egregious attacks on democracy in our country’s history” while making it a major talking point at his political rallies.