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Judge officially ends Trump lawsuit over Mar-a-Lago search

Trump did not appeal an appeals court ruling over the FBI seizure of government documents marked as classified

Mar-a-Lago in August, a week after the FBI raided the home of former President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla.
Mar-a-Lago in August, a week after the FBI raided the home of former President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A Florida federal judge dismissed former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit Monday over the FBI search for classified government documents at his private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Trump had launched the legal challenge to stop the federal criminal investigation into his possession of sensitive government documents after the end of his presidency.

The president briefly succeeded before a district court judge he appointed to the bench, but an appeals court this month ordered the case dismissed and found the judge had overstepped her bounds.

The former president did not appeal that ruling, effectively ending the first major legal battle over the highly charged criminal investigation into the former president.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who originally ruled in Trump’s favor in his suit, cited the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruling in a brief order dismissing the case.

In that unanimous appellate opinion issued earlier this month, the three-judge panel ruled that Cannon should never have taken the case to begin with.

“This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation,” the opinion said. “The answer is no.”

Throughout the litigation, Trump argued the Biden administration had weaponized the Justice Department against a political rival. That argument had brief success with Cannon, who initially ruled in Trump’s favor, paused the government probe, and sent documents found in the search to an outside special master for review. The DOJ appealed.

After Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign last month, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland turned the probe over to Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor. Smith entered filings in the search litigation indicating he endorsed the DOJ’s approach.

Court documents released since the August search have shown that investigators found thousands of government documents at the club, including about 100 with some form of classification markings.

Those documents also showed the FBI was investigating potential violations of espionage statutes, as well as mishandling and destruction of government documents.

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