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Trump investigation: Court lifts judge’s hold preventing DOJ from using classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago

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An appeals court on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request to block a hold by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon related to the seizure of sensitive documents at former President Trump’s Florida estate.

The ruling by the three-judge US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said Cannon mistakenly prevented federal prosecutors from using 100 documents with classification marks as part of the criminal investigation.

“It is clear that the public has a vested interest in ensuring that the storage of classified records does not result in ‘exceptionally serious harm to national security,'” they wrote. “Verifying that,” they added, “necessarily involves reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which sources or methods (if any) are compromised.”


This image from a Justice Department court filing dated August 30, 2022, and redacted in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the FBI’s August 8 search for former President Donald Trump. a-Lago farm in Florida. On Wednesday, an appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that prevented the Justice Department from using seized classified records.
(Justice Department via AP)

The ruling paves the way for the Justice Department to resume use of the documents as it considers whether to pursue criminal charges amid an investigation into the presence of top-secret government records at Mar-a-Lago.

The government had argued that its investigation had been hampered by US District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order temporarily barring investigators from continuing to use the documents in the investigation. Cannon, a Trump appointee, had said the hold would remain in place for her pending a separate review by an independent arbitrator she had appointed at the request of Trump’s team.

Last month, the FBI seized approximately 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification marks, during a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach club. It has launched a criminal investigation into whether the records were mishandled or compromised. It’s unclear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.

On Sept. 5, Cannon said he would appoint an independent special master to review the records and remove any covered by attorney-client privilege. Raymond Dearie, a former federal court chief judge based in Brooklyn, has been appointed to that position.

The Justice Department argued unsuccessfully that a special teacher was not necessary.


Associated Press contributed to this report.

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