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Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in Mar-a-Lago case

Trump’s team asked the high court to block part of a lower court ruling allowing the Justice Department to use classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation.
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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump filed an emergency request Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the case involving classified records he kept at Mar-a-Lago after he left office.

Trump's legal team asked the court to allow the special master to review classified documents federal agents seized from Trump's estate in Florida, but they did not ask the justices to prevent the Justice Department from using the documents as part of a criminal investigation.

In their request, Trump's attorneys asked the court to vacate part of a ruling issued Sept. 21 by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the Justice Department could resume using classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation and barred the special master from reviewing them.

The latter part of the appeals court decision "impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the special master,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the filing Tuesday. “Moreover, any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a president’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice.”

The unanimous ruling last month by the three-judge panel, the former president's lawyers said, effectively compromised "the integrity of the well-established policy against piecemeal appellate review" and ignored "the district court’s broad discretion without justification."

Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles emergency applications from the 11th Circuit, asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to file a response to Trump's request by Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. Although Thomas could act on the application himself, it is most likely he will refer it to the full court, which won't act before it receives that response, meaning the lower court ruling remains in place for now.

To get what he wants, Trump would need five justices to agree with him. Although the court has a 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices he appointed, Trump hasn’t fared well in other such emergency applications, including his attempt to prevent White House documents from being handed over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and his bid to avoid disclosure of his financial records to prosecutors in New York.

Trump's team argued in Tuesday's filing that the 11th Circuit court "lacked jurisdiction to review" the district court's order "providing for the Special Master to review materials seized from President Trump’s home, including approximately 103 documents the Government contends bear classification markings."

The appeals court ruled in response to an appeal the Justice Department filed over a ruling earlier in the month by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, which temporarily barred the department from reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes.

Cannon appointed Special Master Raymond J. Dearie, a senior U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of New York, to review all of the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. The Trump team had proposed Dearie, and Justice Department officials had signaled their approval for him as a potential arbiter to determine whether any of the documents are protected by attorney-client or executive privileges.

The National Archives informed the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Friday that some records from the Trump White House have still not been turned over in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

Several days after the FBI searched Trump's Florida property, a receipt of recovered items showed that agents found a trove of top-secret and other highly classified documents. Federal agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were labeled secret and top secret.