Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is urging the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the Justice Department’s request for a partial stay of a district judge’s ruling that has effectively paused the government’s investigation into Trump’s potential mishandling of classified records after leaving office.
The DOJ had filed a motion Friday with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a partial stay of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order requiring a special master to review items with classification markings seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last month.
The government has said Trump was improperly keeping highly classified and sensitive materials that he took with him after leaving the White House. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Tuesday’s new filing from Trump’s attorneys calls the DOJ’s investigation into Trump “both unprecedented and misguided,” and repeats their claim that it is merely “a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control.” The Justice Department has said that characterization ignores the fact that documents possibly containing some of the nation’s highest protected secrets were found inside Trump’s private club in apparent defiance of a grand jury subpoena.
“The District Court did not err in temporarily enjoining the Government’s review and use of records bearing classification markings for criminal investigative purposes because the merits support that narrowly tailored injunction,” Trump’s lawyers argue in the new filing.
Cannon’s order effectively froze the government’s ability to use the contents of the seized records, including classified documents, as part of its criminal investigation.
DOJ officials also said the order has effectively halted a separate assessment by the intelligence community as to whether any classified information in the documents has been compromised or whether other materials may still be missing.
Cannon also rejected the DOJ’s request to allow investigators to continue reviewing the government records taken from Mar-a-Lago for its probe. Instead, she ruled those records had to be given to a special master for review to consider claims for return of personal property and assertions of attorney-client or executive privilege.
The special master appointed by Cannon, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, has called for lawyers representing both Trump and the DOJ to appear in his Brooklyn courtroom Tuesday afternoon.
In a filing on Monday evening, Trump’s legal team stated it was objecting to a request from Dearie for more information regarding whether Trump ever claimed to have declassified any of the documents at issue while he was president — noting it could end up serving as one of their defenses if Trump is ever indicted.
While Trump has repeatedly claimed he declassified all documents in his possession, his legal team has never made such an assertion in any of the court proceedings surrounding the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago.