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US court shuts down special master review of Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents

The National logo The National 01/12/2022 Patrick deHahn

A US federal appeals court has halted an independent party's review of thousands of documents obtained during an August FBI search at former president Donald Trump's home.

“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 ruling read. “Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Justice Department should have access to “lawfully seized records”, ending a months-long saga over the merits of assigning a third party to the case and agreeing on the overall extent of the special master's work.

The US Justice Department will now have access to all documents found in the August 8 search.

The agency filed an October appeal against the assignment of a special master to review the thousands of documents the FBI obtained during a court-approved search of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and home in Florida.

The appeals court's ruling states that Trump-appointed District Judge Aileen Cannon erred in her decision to approve Mr Trump's request for a special master and to restrict the federal agency's use of the documents in September.

She assigned a Trump choice that the Department of Justice also agreed with — District Judge Raymond Dearie — who has operated under a mid-December deadline to look at the 11,000 documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

“We agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required,” the court stated.

In his time serving as an independent third party on the case, Mr Dearie was vocal about clarifying his work as special master and challenging dubious claims made by Mr Trump and his lawyers.

Supporters of former US president Donald Trump protest against the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. South Florida Sun-Sentinel / AP

Supporters of former US president Donald Trump protest against the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. South Florida Sun-Sentinel / AP
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The US Department of Justice is investigating Mr Trump and his team for espionage and obstruction of justice for the possession of classified material after his presidency ended in 2021.

The efforts of the former president's lawyers in getting a special master involved in the US government's probe is viewed by some as a way for Mr Trump to heavily litigate and delay its work.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court wrote.

It is not yet clear if Mr Trump will appeal this decision before the US Supreme Court.

He announced his third White House bid for the 2024 presidential campaign in November.

As a result, the Justice Department assigned a special master to oversee this and other federal investigations involving Mr Trump, including a probe into the January 6 insurrection and efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss.

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