Mar-a-Lago search: Trump asks appeals court to reject DOJ request to review documents

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump urged an appeals court not to reverse a decision by a lower court that blocked the Justice Department from reviewing documents seized last month from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

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In a court filing Tuesday, Trump’s attorneys said the government had yet to prove that the roughly 100 documents in question were classified at the time that they were seized from Trump’s Florida home. They also noted that the order did not block the government from reviewing the records for intelligence classification and national security assessments.

“The District Court did not err in temporarily enjoining the Government’s review and use of records bearing classification markings for criminal investigative purposes because the merits support that narrowly tailor injunction,” they wrote.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered that the government stop reviewing records seized during the Aug. 8 search until after a third-party has had the opportunity to review them for potential executive or attorney-client privilege issues. Authorities asked Cannon to stay the order, and last week appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals when she declined.

Attorneys for the government said in court records that they wanted access to about 100 documents that were recovered which bore classification markings, “including markings reflecting the highest levels of classification and extremely restricted distribution.” They said that though Cannon allowed for the documents to be used to assess national security risks, the investigations were so entwined that “the criminal investigation is itself essential to the government’s effort to identify and mitigate potential national-security risks.”

Officials said they recovered about 11,000 documents from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s private office on Aug. 8. In earlier court records, authorities said the documents included some that were so sensitive that they required FBI and DOJ officials to get additional clearances before reviewing them.

Authorities searched Mar-a-Lago three days after a judge approved a warrant as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act, and into obstruction of justice and unlawful concealment or removal of government records.

Officials with the National Archives and Records Administration sought records from Trump throughout 2021 and got 15 boxes of miscellaneous papers — including more than 180 confidential records — in January, according to court records. Officials subsequently served the former president with a grand jury subpoena that prompted him to turn over 38 more classified documents in June, authorities said.

A representative of the president certified that the documents were the last confidential records in boxes taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after Trump’s presidency. However, officials said they later got information indicating that the former president had failed to turn over all records in his possession, prompting them to seek a warrant to search the estate.

Last week, Cannon appointed Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as special master in the dispute. Attorneys for the government and Trump are set to appear before him for a preliminary conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon.

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