In response, James Trusty, a Trump attorney, argued that a special assignment from the master did not significantly impede the administration’s investigation into possible mishandling of classified documents, obstruction and destruction of government property. Trusty said the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home and private club was overly broad and that officers took personal items belonging to the former president, including golf shirts and a photo of singer Celine Dion.
But that argument didn’t seem to convince the judges, who repeatedly said Trump’s team failed to prove that he should return these items to him and that the search was out of scope. Chief Judge William H. Pryor Jr said he was concerned about the precedent the case could set by allowing the target of a search warrant to go to court and ask for a special master who could disrupt an executive branch investigation before charges are ever filed. .
Pryor also appeared to criticize Trump’s team for asking for a special master without proving that the initial search was illegal.
“If you can’t prove it was illegal,” he said, “what are we doing here?”
Garland appoints special counsel to lead Trump Mar-a-Lago, January 6 probes
Pryor and Justices Andrew L. Brasher and Britt C. Grant heard the case. Grant and Brash were both appointed by Trump, and Pryor, the former Attorney General of Alabama, was appointed by President George W. Bush.
Both Brasher and Grant sat on the three-judge panel that ruled against Trump in September in a more limited appeal against the lower court’s decision to appoint the special master.
Joshi, who argued the case before the Justice Department, is a former clerk of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and now works in the Attorney General’s office. This is the first time the Department of Justice has engaged a lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office in the special master case, a sign that the government considers the appeal an important case that could potentially reach the Supreme Court.
Chris Kise, a Trump attorney who has previously argued on Trump’s behalf in the special master proceeding, was not present at the hearing.
The status of major investigations involving Donald Trump
The two sides have battled for months over the appointment of the special master — an outside arbitrator who must determine whether any of the 13,000 unmarked documents taken from Trump’s home and private club by the FBI should be due to either attorney. are shielded from investigators. client or executive privilege.
This was the first public proceeding on the Mar-A-Lago documents case since Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed Prosecutor Jack L. Smith as special counsel for the investigation, putting him in charge of the day-to-day running of the case. criminal investigation. The Justice Department said this week that Smith had reviewed arguments in the appeals court.
While the judges seemed more receptive to the Justice Department’s general arguments than Trusty’s, they also openly debated whether they had the proper jurisdiction to essentially overturn the lower court’s entire ruling and grant the special master dismiss – Joshi peppered with questions about the authority of the appeals court in this case.
But while Trump’s lawyers had raised the jurisdictional issue in an earlier filing on the special master, Trusty did not focus on the issue during his speech Tuesday.
The jurors criticized Trump’s team for making seemingly different arguments in different venues. For example, in a recent filing with the appeals court, Trump’s team argued that under the Presidential Records Act, the former president had a right to treat presidential records as personal — allowing him to lawfully obtain former White House records. in March. A-Lago.
Trusty did not elaborate on that argument on Tuesday. But he did introduce a new warrant, saying the warrant used to search Mar-A-Lago was a “general warrant” that was too broad and sifted through personal belongings of the president. Joshi disputed that characterization, saying the court-approved warrant was for specific materials and only allowed a search of specific areas of Mar-a-Lago, such as Trump’s office and storage unit.
“It seems to be a new argument,” Pryor said after listening to Trusty. “This has really been quicksand of arguments.”
Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Florida federal judge, had sided with Trump in September and appointed a special master to review the seized documents, preventing the Justice Department from deleting any material — including 103 documents marked as classified — may use to the outside world. exam closed.
The Justice Department’s earlier appeal enabled the government to immediately resume using the classified documents in its criminal investigation, which focuses on whether classified materials have been mishandled and possible alleged obstruction or destruction of government property.
This latest appeal is asking the court to overturn the full appointment of the special captain, which would end the review process and allow prosecutors access to the documents not classified as classified.
Dearie is expected to complete the review of the 13,000 documents that do not have secret markings next month. At an initial hearing, he expressed skepticism that Trump had any personal or privilege-related claims to the seized material; he has not yet said whether anyone should be considered privileged and protected from detectives.
Any recommendation to shield or not shield documents must be approved by Cannon unless the master’s special appointment is overturned.
This is an evolving story. It will be updated.