The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday asked a federal judge to let it continue reviewing records seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home while it investigates whether classified documents were illegally removed from the White House.
Prosecutors in a court filing asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon not to allow an independent arbiter, called a “special master,” to review classified materials found in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. They said that if she does not rule on their request by Sept. 15, they would file an appeal.
The department’s move came after Cannon, a Trump appointee, on Monday ordered federal prosecutors to pause reviewing the more than 11,000 records they recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach while a special master is appointed to review the material.
“This motion is limited to the order’s directives with respect to the seized classified records because those aspects of the order will cause the most immediate and serious harms to the government and the public,” the department said in a court filing. “The classified records – a discrete set of just over 100 documents – have already been segregated from the other seized records and are being maintained separately.”
Trump is under investigation for retaining government records, some of which were marked as highly classified, at his home after leaving office in January 2021.
The Justice Department is also investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice after revealing in prior legal filings it has evidence that records may have been removed or concealed from the FBI when it sent agents to Trump’s home in June to try to recover all classified documents.
Cannon granted Trump’s request for a special master, an independent third party who is sometimes assigned in sensitive cases to review materials that could be covered by attorney-client privilege.
The judge said the person will be tasked with reviewing documents that are not just covered by attorney-client privilege, but any records possibly covered by executive privilege as well. Executive privilege is a legal doctrine that can shield some presidential records from disclosure.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)