U.S. Justice Department regains access to Trump raid files
The U.S. Justice Department can resume reviewing classified records seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump's Florida home pending appeal, a federal appellate court ruled on Wednesday, giving a boost to the criminal investigation into whether the records were mishandled or compromised.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request by federal prosecutors to block U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon's stay barring them from using the classified documents in their probe until an independent arbiter, called a special master, vets the materials to weed out any that could be deemed privileged and withheld from investigators.
The appeals court also said it would agree to reverse a portion of the lower court's order that required the government to hand over records with classification markings for the special master's review.
"We conclude that the United States would suffer irreparable harm from the district court's restrictions on its access to this narrow, and potentially critical, set of materials, as well as the court's requirement that the United States submit the classified records to the special master for review," the three-judge panel wrote.
The decision is "limited in nature," the panel wrote, as the Justice Department had asked only for a partial stay pending appeal, and that the panel was not able to decide on the merits of the case itself.
The three judges who made the decision were Robin Rosenbaum, an appointee of Democratic former President Barack Obama, and Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, both of whom were appointed by Trump.
Trump's lawyers could potentially ask the U.S. Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by him, to intervene in the matter.
In filings on Tuesday, Trump's lawyers urged the court to keep the stay in place and to allow them under the supervision of the special master, U.S Judge Raymond Dearie, to review all of the seized materials, including those marked classified.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not have an immediate comment. Attorneys for Trump could not be immediately reached for comment.
In an interview on Fox News Wednesday night, Trump repeated his claim without evidence that he declassified the documents and said he had the power to do it "even by thinking about it."