Appeals court panel rules unanimously against Trump, allows DOJ to used ‘classified’ seized docs in investigation

Former President Donald Trump just suffered a loss in his legal battle against the Justice Department over some of the documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida during an FBI raid.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the DOJ and issued a partial stay against a district court order that blocked the DOJ from using the seized materials as part of its ongoing criminal investigation into the former president, the Washington Examiner reported.

The appeals court panel also rather thoroughly eviscerated the broader ruling from one week earlier by District Judge Aileen Cannon that had sided with Trump and appointed a special master to review the seized documents in addition to her order that blocked the FBI from continuing to use those documents in its probe.

Appeals panel partially overturns district court’s order

To be sure, this new ruling from the appeals court panel was narrow in scope to only deal with around 100 seized documents that had been marked as classified, but which Trump has asserted were declassified and were his personal property.

In its 29-page ruling, the judges wrote, “We decide only the narrow question presented: whether the United States has established that it is entitled to a stay of the district court’s order, to the extent that it (1) requires the government to submit for the special master’s review the documents with classification markings and (2) enjoins the United States from using that subset of documents in a criminal investigation.”

“We conclude that it has,” the judges added.

Cannon’s order was unworkable

Judge Cannon had ordered in her opinion that while the FBI must halt its use of the seized documents in its criminal investigation, she would allow the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to proceed with its own national security review of those same seized documents, particularly those bearing classification markings.

The DOJ had argued, however, that the FBI investigation and ODNI review were “intertwined” and inseparable and that Cannon’s order was simply unworkable.

The three-judge panel agreed with that argument and granted the DOJ’s request for a partial stay to block that particular order within Cannon’s broader ruling.

Thoroughly shredded Judge Cannon’s ruling

However, despite the “narrow” scope of the appeal and request, the three-judge panel went further in its own ruling and dissected the numerous areas in which Judge Cannon had “erred” in her ruling.

That said, and in spite of its thrashing of Cannon, the appeals panel did keep its own ruling narrow and did not interfere with the ongoing special master review process that had been ordered, aside from removing the roughly 100 documents marked as classified from consideration for eventual return to Trump as personal property or privileged material.

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