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Trump Asks Appeals Court to Keep Classified Files From DOJ (1)

Sept. 20, 2022, 4:53 PM

Donald Trump asked a federal appeals court to uphold an order that temporarily bars Justice Department investigators from using about 100 documents with classified markings in a criminal probe of the former president.

The records -- some bearing top secret markings -- should remain off limits to investigators while a neutral third party reviews the entire trove of roughly 11,000 documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last month, his lawyers said in a filing Tuesday in the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

“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 tailored injunction,” Trump’s lawyers said in the filing.

The government petitioned the appeals court last week after a federal judge denied its request to carve out classified documents from a review by a neutral “special master.” Justice Department lawyers contend these documents are critical to the investigation into whether Trump mishandled sensitive government records after he left office.

New York federal judge Raymond Dearie, who was selected as special master to perform the review, is holding a preliminary hearing on the review process Tuesday afternoon in a separate proceeding.

Read More: Trump Records Review Can Be Done in a Month in DOJ Plan

The government argued that the judge in Florida who granted Trump’s request for a special master was wrong to give weight to the idea that the former president might have declassified materials or designated certain presidential records as personal ones. Federal law wouldn’t allow sensitive national security information to be categorized as personal, the DOJ said.

The Justice Department opposed the appointment of a special master, but said it wouldn’t push an emergency challenge to Cannon’s full order, focusing instead on the smaller group of documents with classified markings. In its filing Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers repeated their claim that the DOJ probe is politicized.

“The government has criminalized a document dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that simply provides much-needed oversight,” Trump’s lawyers said.

Separately, almost a dozen Republican-led states, including Florida and Mississippi, filed a brief with the appeals court Tuesday in support of Trump and accused the Biden administration of “gamesmanship and other questionable conduct.” The states aren’t involved in the case.

“The Biden Administration’s track record supports the district court’s refusal” to accept the government claims about the documents, the states said in the filing. “Under the extraordinary circumstances of this case, the court correctly set aside the presumption of regularity usually afforded to government officials.”

The case is Trump v. USA, 22-13005-F, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

(Updates with filing from Republican-led states.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

Steve Stroth

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.