National Security

Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in legal fight over special master

President Trump’s legal team on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to intervene in its legal battle to have a third party review the thousands of pages of government records he stored at his Florida home. 

The filing from the Trump team asks the high court to lift a stay granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that allowed the Justice Department to review more than 100 classified records taken from Mar-a-Lago during its August search.

Trump’s lawyers, in court papers, argued that the federal appeals court erred by allowing the Justice Department to appeal a move that was procedural in nature.

“Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay of the Special Master Order, effectively compromising the integrity of the well-established policy against piecemeal appellate review and ignoring the District Court’s broad discretion without justification,” they wrote. “This unwarranted stay should be vacated as it impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master.”

The filing contains similar elements from many of its earlier legal briefs, floating that the documents in question may have been declassified by Trump and that the government was overreacting in its effort to seek their return.

“In sum, the government has attempted to criminalize a document management dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that provides much-needed oversight,” they wrote.

A three-judge panel for the 11th Circuit ruled late last month that the Justice Department could access the classified records, a reversal from a Florida district judge who has sided with Trump in granting the request for a special master and dictating that the review include all records at Mar-a-Lago, even intelligence records.

​​“Plaintiff has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents,” the appeals court judges wrote.

The court ruled that Florida District Judge Aileen Cannon “erred” in including the classified records and cast doubt on whether a special master should have been appointed at all.

The request from Trump only seeks to allow the special master to review the classified records but does not seem to block the Justice Department from continuing use of the records in its own investigation. 

The latest motion from the Trump team follows a move by the Justice Department to expedite its appeal before the 11th Circuit challenging the special master appointment.

The battle over the special master appointment comes after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, seizing some 200,000 pages of government records alongside the classified ones.

Trump has argued that he has the right to retain some of the documents under executive privilege, while the Justice Department said any documents created while Trump served as the executive are therefore presidential records that must be maintained by the National Archives and are not his personal property.

The special master is set to review the more than 10,000 unclassified documents that Trump argues could be covered by executive or attorney-client privileges. 

Trump’s legal team again suggested that Trump could have declassified the records in his home – a claim they’ve failed to fully make, even when asked by the special master they sought to provide evidence that Trump had done so. 

“Since President Trump had absolute authority over classification decisions during his Presidency, the current status of any disputed document cannot possibly be determined solely by reference to the markings on that document,” Trump’s team wrote in the brief.

The Supreme Court asked the Justice Department to respond to Trump’s request by Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

Updated: 6:36 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump FBI Mar-a-Lago Special Master Supreme Court

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