US Justice Department appeals judge's special master ruling in Trump Mar-a-Lago case

Department argues documents should not be handed to a third party due to national security concerns

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The US Department of Justice on Thursday said it was appealing a federal judge's decision regarding the ongoing investigation into classified documents found at former president Donald Trump's Florida home.

The agency asked Judge Aileen Cannon for a stay on some parts of her order, issued on Monday, which allowed for a special master to be assigned to the case and froze the US government's review of obtained documents.

The notice of appeal asks Ms Cannon to allow the continued use of documents marked classified that were discovered during an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

It argues the use of the documents is lawful due to a federal court's approval of the agency's search warrant.

“A stay would simply allow the government to continue to review and use the same records — which, again, indisputably belong to the government, not [Mr Trump] — in its ongoing criminal investigation as well,” the appeal read.

It also asked that the judge not to force “the government to disclose those classified records to a special master for review”.

There were hundreds of government documents found at Mr Trump's residence, including material marked “top secret”, which requires some of the highest levels of security clearance to view or obtain.

Dozens of folders with “classified” labels were also found to be empty.

A Washington Post report this week said one of the documents found included sensitive information on a foreign country's nuclear readiness.

The FBI search on August 8 was done as part of a federal investigation into whether the former president and his team violated three federal laws in the mishandling of government documents taken from the White House after his presidency concluded.

In its filing, the Justice Department wrote that Mr Trump and his team cannot argue “he has any right to have those government records returned to him”.

It said that handing the documents over to a special master or returning them to Mr Trump's team may pose a risk to the country.

The agency also said handing classified documents over to a third party would be a risk as they involve material with a high level of significance for national security.

The Justice Department said that it will give Ms Cannon until September 15 to grant a stay on these measures or it will file a formal appeal with the 11th Circuit of Appeals.

An appeal in the Circuit of Appeals may prove difficult, as six of the 11 judges there were appointed by Mr Trump.

Ms Cannon was also appointed by Mr Trump when he was president.

Updated: September 09, 2022, 12:24 AM