Appeals court rules DOJ can resume criminal probe of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago

A federal appeals court on Sept. 21 ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) can resume its criminal investigation of classified documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a prohibition against the DOJ by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, saying that they could find no personal interest for Trump in documents marked classified.

A special master’s review of the documents is now partially stopped.

“Plaintiff has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents,” Appeals Judges Robin Rosenbaum, Britt Grant, and Andrew Brasher wrote in their 29-page opinion.

Rosenbaum is an Obama appointee while Grant and Basher are Trump appointees.

The panel also said that they found no evidence in the record that Trump declassified the documents when he was president.

“In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal,” the panel wrote.

The panel argued that certain documents are deemed classified because they contain information that could harm national security.

“No party has offered anything beyond speculation to undermine the United States’s representation — supported by sworn testimony — that findings from the criminal investigation may be critical to its national-security review,” the panel wrote.

The panel also rejected Cannon’s reasoning that her order would not get in the way of the risk assessment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, calling the distinction “untenable.”

The U.S. government “has sufficiently explained how and why its national security review is inextricably intertwined with its criminal investigation,” the panel wrote.

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