The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to reject Donald Trump’s effort to have the justices intervene in the dispute over classified records seized this summer from the former president’s private club, Mar-a-Lago.
The DOJ told the justices in a filing that they should reject the appeal from Trump, and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit properly separated classified documents from the rest of the documents the FBI took during the execution of a search warrant as part of a criminal investigation.
A federal district judge in Florida had issued an “unprecedented” order restricting the government’s ability to use its own documents to conduct a criminal investigation, the DOJ told the justices. The 11th Circuit issued a stay of that order only for documents marked as classified.
The DOJ filing noted that Trump “does not acknowledge, much less attempt to rebut, the court of appeals’ conclusion that the district court’s order was a serious and unwarranted intrusion on the Executive Branch’s authority to control the use and distribution of extraordinarily sensitive government records.”
The filing is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers between Trump and the government since FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago in August. Trump’s appeal of the 11th Circuit stay underscores the unusual path his lawsuit has taken through the courts.
Trump has sought Supreme Court review of one part of the 11th Circuit ruling. The Justice Department told the justices that Trump does not challenge the 11th Circuit’s decision to reinstate the government’s authority to use the documents bearing classification markings in its ongoing criminal investigation.
Trump instead seeks to partially vacate the stay to the extent it precludes dissemination and review of those documents in the special-master proceedings that were ordered by the district court, the DOJ said in the filing.
Court documents released after the search showed the FBI found 11 sets of documents marked with some form of classification. In some of those documents, the DOJ said they have opened a criminal investigation for espionage and mishandling of classified documents.
That followed a more than 18-month struggle with the former president seeking the return of government documents he took with him following the end of his term. In later court filings, Trump and the government said that about 100 of the documents are classified.
Those court filings, and the Supreme Court appeal, came as part of a civil suit Trump launched to halt the criminal investigation and seek return of the documents. A federal district judge appointed by Trump, Judge Aileen Cannon, temporarily blocked the DOJ investigation and sent the documents to a court-appointed special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, to review for privilege concerns.
The DOJ sought a limited reprieve from Cannon’s order to allow it to use the classified documents, which she denied.
Then the government appealed to the 11th Circuit, which sided with the DOJ in a rebuke of the lower court ruling.