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Court Halts Trump Special Master Appointment in Mar-a-Lago Case

AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

An appeals court ruled that the appointment of a special master after the search of former President Trump’s Florida home was improper, removing a hurdle the Justice Department said had delayed its criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret government information.


“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” a three-judge panel wrote for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, adding “either approach would be a reordering of our case law limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations.”  

The ruling now clears the way for them to at least 22,000 pages as part of their investigation the entire tranche of documents seized during an FBI raid in August on Trump’s Florida residence. 

The ruling said that the pleas made by Trump’s attorneys to keep the special master process would represent “a dramatic and unwarranted” use of the court’s authority. His attorneys needed to prove that the government abused its authority by searching his home. 

“As we have said, the status of a document as personal or presidential does not alter the authority of the government to seize it under a warrant supported by probable cause,” the judges wrote, adding “plaintiff attempts — as he did in the district court — to reverse the standard, arguing that the government does not need the non-classified documents for its investigation. This is not self-evident, but it would be irrelevant in any event. Plaintiff’s task was to show why he needed the documents, not why the government did not. He has failed to meet his burden.”


The special master process has been ongoing since September. Just hours before the ruling, Trump’s lawyers and the government filed a joint briefing reviewing the disputes over the remaining documents. 

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the judges continued. 

It is unclear whether Trump’s lawyers will appeal the ruling. 

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