On Thursday, a federal prosecutor asked a judge to restore access to classified materials seized at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, stating that they need to determine if any sensitive government documents have not been found yet in their ongoing criminal probe and gesturing, they will appeal the matter to a higher court.
Earlier this year, the United States Justice Department sought re-access to classified records from Former Mar-a-Lago resort. Federal prosecutors noted their plans to appeal while stating that they must be able to access classified documents to see if additional evidence exists. pic.twitter.com/k63cu7liXz
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In a letter to US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, attorneys for the DOJ said they would file their appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta if she failed to grant their requested stay by September 15. President Trump had asked Cannon to have a special master examine the seized documents, stating that prosecutors cannot use the material until the master has reviewed them.
This decision slowed an investigation into whether classified information was mishandled at Trump’s Florida residence and club and whether government records had been hidden, tampered with, or destroyed. According to an anonymous source who told the Washington Post on Tuesday, one of the seized FBI documents described a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.
FBI Agents Can’t Access Classified Documents
Some reports said that some of the seized documents contain details about top-secret operations of the United States that are so tightly guarded that many senior national security officials are unaware of them. The prosecutors filed separate court documents Thursday asking Cannon to temporarily suspend two key parts of her order to signal their intent to appeal Cannon’s order.
She ruled that FBI agents and prosecutors cannot access classified documents for their criminal investigation until the special master has reviewed both classified and unclassified documents. In the end, the Justice Department said that a special master could be appointed to review records seized by FBI agents during the August 8 court-authorized search of the Mar-a-Lago estate.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Cannon should not allow the special master to look at classified documents and should immediately grant investigators access to those records. If the FBI is not allowed to use classified materials in the investigation, even temporarily, prosecutors wrote that it might impede efforts to identify other classified records that aren’t properly stored, which could pose a continuing threat to national security.
They suggested for the first time in court filings that the government may have unsecured classified material that has not been located yet. Donald Trump’s lawyers were asked to respond by 10 am to the Justice Department’s request. As the parties work toward a Friday deadline for submitting a list of likely special master candidates and a schedule for reviewing the seized documents, he asked both sides to “consider” the pending request.
Allowing the Special Master to Review the Classified Documents
In their Thursday filing, prosecutors contended that allowing a special master to review the classified material would cause immediate and severe harm to the public and government. They added that the seized records had already been moved to a secure facility apart from the other Trump papers taken. In addition, the FBI Assistant Director, Alan E. Kohler, submitted a declaration stating that banning investigators from using the seized classified documents may prevent them from determining what the seized documents may have been used for.
As a result of last week’s publication of a more detailed list of what the FBI took with them, the image of those empty folders became public. According to Kohler, “the FBI’s probe could reveal what documents were once saved in those folders and whether they were compromised or lost.” DOJ’s lawyers told Cannon that they had sorted through the documents, separating more than five hundred pages of documents that may be relevant to attorney-client privilege.
Moreover, the United States magistrate judge approved the arrangement of those documents as he approved the search warrant for the former president’s Florida home after the federal government tried for many months to get the former president and his advisers to return all the government records kept at the property. Cannon reported that DOJ lawyers had already sorted through the material, using a filter team to remove more than five hundred pages of likely privilege-protected documents.