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Trump seeks Supreme Court review over seized documents

The former president asks the justices to lift part of a lower court order on documents marked classified that the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago

Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, in Palm Beach.
Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, in Palm Beach. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court order that allowed the Justice Department to use classified documents seized in this summer’s search of Mar-A-Lago in a criminal investigation.

Trump asked the Supreme Court to vacate part of a ruling last month from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That ruling lifted an order from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, in a case Trump filed after the search, that had DOJ to halt its criminal probe and hand to an outside special master the roughly 100 documents marked as classified found at Trump’s residence in Florida.

Trump’s filing adds fuel to the ongoing legal wrangling over use of the documents seized in the unprecedented search of a former president, which the government said has harmed the investigation into the improper storage of sensitive secrets.

In Tuesday’s filing, Trump argued the 11th Circuit never had the ability to review Cannon’s order. The Supreme Court does not have to agree to decide the issue.

“The 11th Circuit lacked jurisdiction to review the special master order, which authorized the review of all materials seized from President Trump’s residence, including documents bearing classification markings,” Trump’s filing said.

The filing also repeated mentions of Trump’s authority to declassify documents while he was in office. While Trump has stated multiple times in social media posts that he declassified the documents at issue, his attorneys have not said so in court.

“Since President Trump had absolute authority over classification decisions during his Presidency, the current status of any disputed document cannot possibly be determined solely by reference to the markings on that document,” the filing said.

That argument ran into friction with both the special master and the 11th Circuit. In its opinion allowing the DOJ to move forward, the 11th Circuit rejected Trump’s arguments about his ability to declassify documents as a “red herring.”

Trump’s attorneys argued both before Cannon and special master Judge Raymond Dearie that he had broad authority to declassify documents, but did not present any evidence he had done so.

“So even if we assumed that Plaintiff did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them,” the 11th Circuit panel wrote.

After the 11th Circuit’s decision, Cannon revised her original decision and allowed the DOJ to use the documents.

Federal officials searched Trump’s club over the summer, and court documents revealed that followed an 18-month dispute between the National Archives and Records Administration and Trump over documents he took at the end of his term.

Documents from the search released by a judge afterward showed investigators found 11 sets of documents marked with some form of classification and the DOJ was investigating the former president for espionage violations.

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