Appeals court ends special master review of Trump Mar-a-Lago documents

Appeals court ends special master review of Trump Mar-a-Lago documents
WASHINGTON — 

A three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that a special master should not have been appointed to review materials the FBI seized from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The decision allows the Justice Department to resume using those materials as part of its investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified records and obstructed justice. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had ordered the government not to use the materials while the review took place, limiting for months what evidence the department could access during it’s investigation.

During brief arguments before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta last week, the three judges suggested that Trump and his legal team wanted special treatment that would not have been granted to any other American by allowing him the opportunity to challenge the search warrant executed at his home long before charges had been brought. They also said that the case did not appear to clear the bar for appointing a special master, a type of independent expert used in some legal cases.

The judges also expressed concern that allowing U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to stand would set a precedent that would allow other people under investigation to ask courts to limit law enforcement’s access to evidence before any indictments have been handed down.

The three members of the 11th Circuit panel were all appointed by Republicans. Chief Judge William Pryor was appointed by former President George W. Bush. Judge Britt Grant and Judge Andrew Brasher were appointed by Trump.

Before the ruling, a special master was deep into the process of reviewing more than 22,000 records seized by the FBI during a court-approved Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Florida property. He had asked the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers to resolve questions over about 900 documents by Thursday.

Trump has claimed that the majority of the disputed documents are personal records, not presidential records, which were supposed to be turned over to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. The Justice Department has argued that the materials are still evidence, regardless of whether they were personal or presidential records.

The special master’s initial review was expected to end in mid-December.

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