Trump Loses Special Master Review in Mar-a-Lago Files Case

The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of White House documents got a major boost Thursday, as a federal appeals court ruled a judge was wrong to interfere with the probe by appointing a special master to review material seized from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
The decision marks the latest setback for Trump in a months-long legal fight that government lawyers say has stymied their work. Prosecutors are exploring whether Trump or anyone else mishandled government records — including material classified at the highest level of secrecy — or engaged in obstruction.
In its order Thursday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of a federal judge in September to appoint a special master and block the Justice Department from using the bulk of the documents while the review was being conducted. The panel featured three judges appointed by Republican presidents, including two nominated by Trump.
“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant,” the appeals court said. “Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”
Whether the latest order permanently halts the special master’s work wasn’t immediately clear. Trump could petition the full 11th Circuit to reconsider the the ruling by the three-judge panel, or he could ask the US Supreme Court to intervene.
Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung sent a statement describing the appeals court opinion as “purely procedural” and claiming the “decision does not address the merits that clearly demonstrate the impropriety of the unprecedented, illegal, and unwarranted raid on Mar-a-Lago.” The statement didn’t indicate whether Trump would continue to press the case in court.
During arguments before the 11th Circuit last week, one of the judges said there’d been no showing that the search was unlawful. In response, a lawyer for Trump said his team was in the process of trying to establish that.
Justice Department spokesperson Myron Marlin declined to comment.
The appellate panel concluded that Trump had failed to meet the high bar necessary for courts to intervene in a pending criminal investigation and that US District Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida had lacked jurisdiction to step in to the Mar-a-Lago probe. The court agreed that it was “extraordinary” for a search warrant to ...