Justice Department appeals against special master review in Trump Mar-a-Lago case

Department criticises order approving third party to look at thousands of documents found in FBI search

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The US Department of Justice on Friday asked a court to cancel an independent party's review of the thousands of government documents found at former president Donald Trump's home.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon in September assigned a "special master" to oversee a federal probe into FBI-seized documents from a court-approved August search of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The basis for approving a third party has been in dispute ever since.

"This Court should therefore vacate the district court’s September 5 order in its entirety with instructions to dismiss the case," the Justice Department wrote in its filing.

The agency's appeal has been anticipated throughout the special master's work — which is operating under a mid-December deadline — but has not been filed until now.

The Justice Department argues that Ms Cannon, a Trump-appointed judge, has given "extraordinary relief" to Mr Trump in approving a "special-master review process that will last months", and asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to "reverse the order".

"The district court’s months-long injunction caused and continues to cause significant harm to the government and the public," the Justice Department said.

If vacated by the appeals court, the move could put a big dent in Mr Trump's aims to heavily litigate and delay the government's probe.

The US is investigating Mr Trump and his team for possibly violating federal laws such as espionage and obstruction of justice in possessing federal documents, including top secret classified material requiring some of the highest levels of security clearance to view, after his presidency ended in 2021.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals already ruled to not have the special master review the roughly 100 documents marked classified, and the Justice Department is now asking that the entire review of all 11,000 documents be halted.

Also this week, the US Supreme Court refused to grant Mr Trump's request in allowing the special master to look at the sensitive material.

“This court has already granted the government’s motion to stay that unprecedented order insofar as it relates to the documents bearing classification markings,” the Justice Department's filing read. “The court should now reverse the order in its entirety for multiple independent reasons.”

The appeal also criticises Ms Cannon's original order to forbid the government from using all the seized documents in its probe, saying "those records are central to — indeed, the very objects of — the government’s ongoing criminal investigation".

Updated: October 15, 2022, 9:34 AM