Documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago
Source: Ministry of Justice
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to allow a so-called special master to review classified government documents that were seized from his Florida residence during an FBI raid in August.
Trump asked the court to overturn a recent ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barring the special master from examining more than 100 classified records as part of his broader review of more than 11,000 government documents seized at the Mar-a Club -Lago in Palm Beach.
The appeals court said a subset of classified records can only be reviewed by the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump’s removal of government documents when he left office in January 2021.
Last week, Trump’s lawyers told the Supreme Court in a statement that the appeals court’s ruling “significantly impairs the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the special master,” who was appointed by a federal judge to review all the seized documents to see if there are retained by the DOJ for use in its investigation.
Those lawyers also argued that “any restriction on the full and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid on a president’s home undermines public confidence in our justice system.”
The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject Trump’s appeal.
In a court filing Tuesday, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued that Trump has “no plausible claim” to the classified records.
In its Thursday order, the Supreme Court said: “The petition to vacate the stay filed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on September 21, 2022, presented to Justice [Clarence] Thomas and his reference to the Court is denied.” There was no dissent from any of the Supreme Court justices noted in the order.
Thomas has oversight of the 11th Circuit’s emergency appeals.
Trump’s appeal to the Supreme Court was on a relatively narrow issue and was not expected to affect the Justice Department’s final decision on whether to bring criminal charges against him or others.
Even if he had prevailed, the Justice Department would have continued to review the classified documents and almost certainly would have been able to use them in the investigation. The Justice Department said the review is necessary to determine whether there may be other documents that were not discovered in the raid.
But the former Republican president has decades of experience using the legal system and appeals process to push through criminal, civil and government investigations.
And as the man who appointed three of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices, he may have expected to receive a favorable ruling.
The Justice Department is investigating Trump for removing documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 and retreated to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. By law, such documents belong to the federal government and must be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration.
The DOJ is also investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice in the case.
NARA last year found out that Trump might be in possession of government documents and ended up recovering 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. After discovering that some of the documents were classified, NARA referred the matter to the DOJ, which opened a criminal investigation.
Before the Aug. 8 raid at Mar-a-Lago, where thousands of government documents were found, Trump’s lawyers argued that a search of the club did not turn up such records as requested by the DOJ.
After the raid, Trump asked U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon to appoint a special master to review the seized materials for documents that could be exempt from use in the criminal investigation because they are protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
Soon after, Cannon appointed Brooklyn, New York federal judge Raymond Deary to that role.
Dearie continues to examine the unclassified records seized in the raid.