Court seems skeptical of Trump claims in Mar-a-Lago case

Nov 21, 2022, 5:33 PM | Updated: Nov 23, 2022, 12:46 pm
FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he smiles while speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. A federal appeals court is hearing arguments Tuesday on whether to shut down an independent review of the documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court appeared deeply skeptical Tuesday that former President Donald Trump was entitled to challenge an FBI search of his Florida estate or to have an independent arbiter review documents that were seized from the home.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, including two Trump appointees, repeatedly suggested Trump was seeking special treatment in asking that the “special master” conduct an independent inspection of records taken in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

“Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant,” said William Pryor, the court’s chief judge, a George W. Bush appointee.

He added: “We’ve got to be concerned about the precedent that we would create that would allow any target of a federal criminal investigation to go into a district court and to have a district court entertain this kind of petition … and interfere with the executive branch’s ongoing investigation.”

The judges indicated through their questioning that they were likely to side with the Justice Department, which has sought an immediate end to a special master review process that it says has unnecessarily delayed its investigation into the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It was not immediately clear when the court might rule.

In another legal setback for Trump, the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a congressional committee to get his tax returns after a three-year fight.

The special master in the Mar-a-Lago case, veteran New York Judge Raymond Dearie, was appointed in September at the Trump team’s request. He was tasked with conducting an independent inspection of the roughly 13,000 documents seized in the search and filtering out from the criminal investigation any that might be covered by claims of attorney-client or executive privilege.

The Florida judge who appointed him, Aileen Cannon, had blocked federal prosecutors from using the seized records as part of their investigation during the course of Dearie’s work. A three-judge panel of the appeals court later restored the Justice Department’s access to the roughly 100 documents with classification markings, but prosecutors say they want unfettered access to the much larger trove of unclassified records and have asked the court to end the process entirely.

Two of the judges in that decision — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, both Trump appointees — participated in Tuesday’s arguments.

Though the investigation is centered on the possible mishandling of classified records, the Justice Department says it also regards the unclassified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago as relevant to the probe. That’s because of the mingling with classified documents of personal records that prosecutors say could provide key evidence of who possessed or handled the records.

In court papers, the Justice Department has said the only purpose for which it’s been able to use the unclassified documents so far has been to engage in a “prolonged dispute” with the Trump team about their categorization.

James Trusty, the Trump lawyer, described as “overblown” the Justice Department’s arguments that its investigation had been slowed. He said the department already had access to the classified documents and he minimized the importance of the remaining materials, describing them as birthday cards, thank you notes, photographs and other personal items.

“It is not realistic for the government to complain that this has hobbled their ability to investigate,” Trusty said.

He suggested that the search warrant had resulted in an overly broad seizure of materials, though Pryor noted, “I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.”

Trusty denied that he was seeking special treatment for Trump but also urged the judges to consider the context of the case. “This is a situation where a political rival has been subjected to a search warrant where thousands of personal materials have been taken,” he said.

But when Trusty at one point referred to the FBI search as a “raid,” Judge Grant, a Trump appointee, chidingly asked him whether “raid is the right term for execution of a warrant.” Trusty apologized for using what he acknowledged was a “loaded term.”

The special master process has been playing out alongside a criminal investigation into the retention of the documents and possible obstruction.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week named a veteran prosecutor, Jack Smith, to serve as special counsel and oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation and key aspects of a separate probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

____

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

___

More on Donald Trump-related investigations: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Former President Donald Trump, left, and Michigan Republican attorney general candidate Matt...
Associated Press

Defeated election conspiracists seek to lead Michigan GOP

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republicans who lost their races for Michigan’s top three statewide offices after promoting falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election are not planning to go quietly. Two of the candidates who denied President Joe Biden’s victory in the state have announced plans to run for the position that leads the state […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Estonia to buy U.S. rocket artillery system in $200M deal

HELSINKI (AP) — NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced U.S. rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday. A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Strong quake shakes main Indonesia island; no tsunami alert

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong earthquake shook parts of Indonesia’s main island of Java on Saturday, causing panic and sending people into the streets, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Officials said there was no danger of a tsunami. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 5.7 and said it […]
1 day ago
Migrant workers with their belongings leave a barricaded village after authorities' easing of COVID...
Associated Press

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport. The slight relaxation of testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents […]
1 day ago
FILE - A protester holding flowers is confronted by a policeman during a protest on a street in Sha...
Associated Press

At Shanghai vigil, bold shout for change preceded crackdown

SHANGHAI (AP) — The mourners in Shanghai lit candles and placed flowers. Someone scrawled “Urumqi, 11.24, Rest in Peace” in red on cardboard — referring to the deadly apartment fire in China’s western city of Urumqi that sparked anger over perceptions the country’s strict COVID-19 measures played a role in the disaster. What started as […]
1 day ago
A police officer tries to keep the roadway clear as people come to view the Mauna Loa volcano as it...
Associated Press

Molten lava on Hawaii’s Big Island could block main highway

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Many people on the Big Island of Hawaii are bracing for major upheaval if lava from Mauna Loa volcano slides across a key highway and blocks the quickest route connecting two sides of the island. The molten rock could make the road impassable and force drivers to find alternate coastal routes […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Court seems skeptical of Trump claims in Mar-a-Lago case