Justice Department files appeal over Mar-a-Lago raid special master ruling

Donald Trump kept top secret documents

The Justice Department asked an appeals court to overturn a Trump-appointed judge’s order requiring a third-party review of classified documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

In its request with the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department said the lower court’s move to block criminal investigations from reviewing the seized documents marked as classified would cause irreparable harm, writing that the “criminal investigation is itself essential to the government’s effort to identify and mitigate potential national-security risks.”

“If you still had doubts that Donald Trump’s relentless court-packing poses profound challenges to the legitimacy of the judiciary, U. S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s ruling in favor of the man who appointed her should resolve them,” said E.J. Dionne Jr., a professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

The appeals court was filed a day after Cannon appointed Judge Raymond J. Dearie to serve as special master responsible for reviewing almost 11,000 documents seized in the FBI’s Aug. 8 search.

The Justice Department said that it disagrees with that decision but for the time being is asking the appeals court to intercede on two parts of Cannon’s ruling — one barring criminal investigators from using the seized material while the special master does his work, and another allowing the special master to review the roughly 100 classified documents seized as well as the nonclassified material.

The government filing asks for a stay of “only the portions of the order causing the most serious and immediate harm to the government and the public,” calling the scope of their request “modest but critically important.”

It’s unclear how long the special master review, or the appeals, might take, but the new filing asks the appeals court to rule on their request for a stay “as soon as practicable.”

Cannon ordered Dearie to complete his review by Nov. 30. She said he should prioritize sorting through the classified documents, though she did not provide a timeline as to when that portion must be completed.

The Justice Department had asked in a previous court filing for the review to be completed by Oct. 17. And Trump’s lawyers had said a special master would need 90 days to complete a review.

Dearie, 78, was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan (R) after serving as a U.S. attorney. Fellow lawyers and colleagues in Brooklyn federal court describe him as an exemplary jurist who is well suited to the job of special master, having previously served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees sensitive national security cases.

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