Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
AP

Court seems skeptical of Trump claims in Mar-a-Lago case

  • Updated
  • 0
Trump FBI

FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. A federal appeals court is hearing arguments Tuesday on whether to shut down an independent review of the documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court appeared deeply skeptical Tuesday that former President Donald Trump was entitled to challenge an FBI search of his Florida estate or to have an independent arbiter review documents that were seized from the home.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, including two Trump appointees, repeatedly suggested Trump was seeking special treatment in asking that the “special master” conduct an independent inspection of records taken in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

“Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant,” said William Pryor, the court's chief judge, a George W. Bush appointee.

He added: “We've got to be concerned about the precedent that we would create that would allow any target of a federal criminal investigation to go into a district court and to have a district court entertain this kind of petition ... and interfere with the executive branch's ongoing investigation.”

The judges indicated through their questioning that they were likely to side with the Justice Department, which has sought an immediate end to a special master review process that it says has unnecessarily delayed its investigation into the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It was not immediately clear when the court might rule.

In another legal setback for Trump, the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a congressional committee to get his tax returns after a three-year fight.

The special master in the Mar-a-Lago case, veteran New York Judge Raymond Dearie, was appointed in September at the Trump team’s request. He was tasked with conducting an independent inspection of the roughly 13,000 documents seized in the search and filtering out from the criminal investigation any that might be covered by claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.

The Florida judge who appointed him, Aileen Cannon, had blocked federal prosecutors from using the seized records as part of their investigation during the course of Dearie’s work. A three-judge panel of the appeals court later restored the Justice Department’s access to the roughly 100 documents with classification markings, but prosecutors say they want unfettered access to the much larger trove of unclassified records and have asked the court to end the process entirely.

Two of the judges in that decision — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, both Trump appointees — participated in Tuesday's arguments.

Though the investigation is centered on the possible mishandling of classified records, the Justice Department says it also regards the unclassified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago as relevant to the probe. That’s because of the mingling with classified documents of personal records that prosecutors say could provide key evidence of who possessed or handled the records.

In court papers, the Justice Department has said the only purpose for which it’s been able to use the unclassified documents so far has been to engage in a “prolonged dispute” with the Trump team about their categorization.

James Trusty, the Trump lawyer, described as “overblown” the Justice Department's arguments that its investigation had been slowed. He said the department already had access to the classified documents and he minimized the importance of the remaining materials, describing them as birthday cards, thank you notes, photographs and other personal items.

“It is not realistic for the government to complain that this has hobbled their ability to investigate,” Trusty said.

He suggested that the search warrant had resulted in an overly broad seizure of materials, though Pryor noted, “I don't think it's necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.”

Trusty denied that he was seeking special treatment for Trump but also urged the judges to consider the context of the case. “This is a situation where a political rival has been subjected to a search warrant where thousands of personal materials have been taken,” he said.

But when Trusty at one point referred to the FBI search as a “raid,” Judge Grant, a Trump appointee, chidingly asked him whether “raid is the right term for execution of a warrant.” Trusty apologized for using what he acknowledged was a “loaded term."

The special master process has been playing out alongside a criminal investigation into the retention of the documents and possible obstruction.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week named a veteran prosecutor, Jack Smith, to serve as special counsel and oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation and key aspects of a separate probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP


More on Donald Trump-related investigations: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

0 Comments
* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The White House says Thursday's state dinner for the president of France is meant to highlight the ties that bind the United States and its oldest ally. First lady Jill Biden and White House staff previewed the arrangements on Wednesday. Maine lobster poached in butter, beef with shallot marmalade and a trio of American cheeses are on the menu. Dessert is orange chiffon cake, with roasted pears and creme fraiche ice cream. A glitzy White House state dinner is a high diplomatic honor reserved for only the closest U.S. allies. Thursday's affair will be the first one of the Biden administration.

A rural Arizona county has certified its midterm election results after blowing past the deadline in state law. The Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to follow the orders of a judge who ruled that they broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week’s deadline. Two Republicans on Cochise County’s three-member board of supervisors did not cite any problems with the election results as a reason to delay. Rather, they say they weren’t satisfied that the machines used to tabulate ballots were properly certified for use in elections, though state and federal election officials have said they were.

The Senate has passed landmark  bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriages. It's an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide. The bill approved Tuesday would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the legislation is “a long time coming” and part of America’s “difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality.” Senate Democrats are moving quickly to send the bill to the House and President Joe Biden’s desk.

Republican officials in a rural Arizona county refused Monday to certify the 2022 election despite no evidence of anything wrong with the count, a decision that was quickly challenged in court by the state's top election official.

The refusal to certify by Cochise County in southeastern Arizona comes amid pressure from prominent Republicans to reject results showing Democrats winning top races.

President Joe Biden says Democrats should give up “restrictive” caucuses and move to champion diversity in the order of their presidential primary calendar. His recommendation deals a major blow to Iowa’s decadeslong status as the state that leads off the process. In a letter to the rule-making arm of the Democratic National Committee, Biden does not mention specific states he’d like to see go first. But he’s told Democrats he would like to see South Carolina moved to the front of the calendar, according to three people familiar with his recommendation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. He recommends that Michigan and Georgia move into the first five states.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

all

Breaking News

Huskers Breaking News

News Alert