Judges deny Trump’s request for Supreme Court action in Mar-a-Lago case

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to reinstate Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s order that a special master review classified documents found in an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s home and private club in Florida.

There were no known dissenting opinions on the unsigned, one-sentence court order. It prompted a quick and sharp denial of an emergency request by the former president to intervene in the high-profile document review, which is part of an ongoing criminal probe into possible misuse of classified information after Trump left the White House.

The review will be conducted by Special Counsel Raymond J. Dearie, a federal judge in Brooklyn who was recommended for the job by Trump’s legal team. Trump’s lawyers asked for a review of all of the approximately 11,000 documents seized by the FBI to determine whether some should be protected from investigators on grounds of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed Cannon’s order that 103 of the seized documents, which were marked as classified, should be part of Dearie’s review. It also overturned Cannon’s finding that the Justice Department could not proceed with the use of the classified documents in a criminal investigation.

A Trump employee told the FBI to move boxes in Mar-a-Lago at Trump’s request

The Trump team did not try to persuade the Supreme Court to withhold the documents from Justice Department investigators, which is believed to be the most important part of the appeals court’s order. But it has challenged the 11th Circuit’s order that Dearie should not examine the classified documents.

Such a review might have necessitated submitting the secret files to Trump’s legal department so they could assert claims for privileges. The government has said some of the documents seized are extremely sensitive, and the Washington Post has reported that authorities have seized a document detailing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.

The Trump team’s request actually stated that key parts of Cannon’s order prior to the 11th Circuit were improper. The Justice Department’s response was that all of the provisions relating to Cannon’s involvement in the case were involved and that the appeals court’s complaint was justified.

The Justice Department said allowing an outside arbitrator to review the classified documents would “irreparably hurt” the government, arguing that Trump had presented no evidence that he would be harmed without the Supreme Court’s intervention. As a former president, the administration says, Trump has no “plausible” claims of ownership over sensitive government material.

The legal battle over Cannon’s intervention in the case is ongoing. The Justice Department has announced it will ask the 11th Circuit to reverse Cannon’s entire decision to appoint a special master; it has until Friday to file that appeal.

Trump’s attorneys have until Nov. 10 to respond to the Justice Department’s appeal, according to an 11th Circuit order. The government said in a Supreme Court filing this week that Cannon “fundamentally erred” in appointing a special master.

The Supreme Court’s quick work in denying Trump’s request to intervene in the case signals that there was little interest in involvement at the time. The court issued its order without waiting, as usual, for Trump’s attorneys to respond to the Justice Department’s response.

Trump’s request was modest anyway, legal experts said. “It can be trumpeted as what Trump brought to the Supreme Court, but what he brought to the Supreme Court was a very narrow argument,” said Sean M. Marotta, a Washington appellate attorney, before the judges’ denial announced the petition. “This is not an earth-shattering aspect of the investigation.”

The Supreme Court’s denial of Trump’s motion continues a string of unfavorable rulings for the former president. Trump elected a third of the Supreme Court’s nine justices, a body that has veered to the right on issues dear to conservatives, such as abortion, gun rights and religion. But the court was a disappointment to Trump on issues affecting him personally.

The judges rejected several challenges to the 2020 election results tabled by Trump and his allies. And after the presidency, the court denied his request to have certain White House documents from the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. In that case, only Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that he would support Trump’s plea.

In July 2020, the court rejected Trump’s bold claims of immunity from investigators from local law enforcement and Congress.

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