Washington (AFP), Sep 17 – The US Justice Department on Friday appealed in part a judge’s decision to halt the review of seized documents from former president Donald Trump’s Florida estate, asking to continue its investigation of those materials marked as classified.
Federal investigators have been blocked since last week from reviewing thousands of documents taken by the FBI from Trump’s seaside mansion, after a judge sided with the former president and decided to appoint an independent arbiter to sort through the files.
The Justice Department, in its filing Friday evening, argued that Judge Aileen Cannon “fundamentally erred in appointing a special master and granting injunctive relief,” but would limit its appeal to just the “roughly 100 records bearing classification markings,” recovered from Trump’s estate.
Delaying the review of the classified documents, which it argues are government property, “impedes the government’s efforts to protect the Nation’s security,” the Justice Department said.
“It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel,” the filing added, referring to Trump’s lawyers.
Trump is facing mounting legal pressure, with the Justice Department saying top-secret documents were “likely concealed” to obstruct an FBI probe into his potential mishandling of classified materials.
He has denied all wrongdoing, and said the raid on his mansion was “one of the most egregious assaults on democracy in the history of our country,” while making it a major talking point at his political rallies.
The appeal will be heard first by a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit, but could ultimately wind up at the Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Judge Cannon appointed Raymond Dearie to review the files, as the so-called special master.
The 78-year-old senior federal judge in New York was one of two people proposed by Trump’s legal team.
Dearie issued an order on Friday for Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department counsel to meet with him in New York early next week.
Agenda items for the Tuesday meeting are to be submitted by either side by the close of business on Monday, Dearie ordered.
In addition to the documents probe, Trump faces investigations in New York into his business practices, as well as legal scrutiny over his efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election, and for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.