Saturday, December 3, 2022

Trump asks US Supreme Court to intervene over seized classified records

Trump asks US Supreme Court to intervene over seized classified records

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump asked the US Supreme Court to intervene in his fight with the Justice Department over classified documents seized from his Florida home as part of a criminal investigation into his handling of government records.

Trump filed an emergency request asking the justices to block part of a lower court's ruling that prevented an independent arbiter requested by Trump, known as a special master, from vetting more than 100 documents marked as classified that were among 11,000 records seized by FBI agents at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on Aug. 8. 

The Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 21 repudiated a decision by US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who had temporarily barred the department from examining the seized classified documents until the special master had weeded out any that could be deemed privileged and withheld from investigators.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who is assigned to assess emergency appeals from the 11th Circuit, late on Tuesday requested a response from the Justice Department by Oct. 11. Thomas is one of six conservatives on the nine-member Supreme Court.

The 11th Circuit also prevented the special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, from having access to the documents with classified markings, noting the importance of limiting access to classified information.

Trump's lawyers in Tuesday's filing said Dearie should have access to "determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are personal records or presidential records."

The Justice Department has "attempted to criminalize a document management dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that provides much-needed oversight," Trump's lawyers added.

The court-approved Mar-a-Lago search was conducted as part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally retained documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 after his failed 2020 re-election bid and whether Trump tried to obstruct the probe.

The investigation seeks to determine who accessed classified materials, whether they were compromised and if any remain unaccounted for. At issue in the 11th Circuit ruling were documents bearing classified markings of confidential, secret or top secret.