In setback to Trump, US court lifts hold on seized Mar-a-Lago classified records

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

  • A US federal court revered a lower court's order concerning documents seized from Donald Trump.
  • The lower court barred the Justice Department from using the documents in an investigation.
  • Trump presented no evidence that he had declassified the documents.


A federal appeals court in the United States has lifted a judge's hold on the Justice Department's ability to use classified records seized from former president Donald Trump's Florida estate, as they evaluate an ongoing criminal investigation into the documents storage at Mar-a-Lago.

The Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request by federal prosecutors to block a lower court's decision barring them from using the classified documents in their investigation until an independent arbiter, known as a special master, had vetted the materials to weed out any that could be deemed privileged.

READ | Under pressure, Donald Trump revives QAnon conspiracy cult - around himself

The appeals court also said it would agree to reverse a portion of the order that required the government to hand over records with classification markings for the special master's review.

The three-judge panel wrote:

We conclude that the United States would suffer irreparable harm from the district court's restrictions on its access to this narrow - and potentially critical - set of materials, as well as the court's requirement that the United States submit the classified records to the special master for review.

The court noted that Trump had presented no evidence that he had declassified the sensitive records.

It also rejected the possibility that Trump could have an "individual interest in or need for" the roughly 100 documents marked as classified.


The three judges who made the decision were Robin Rosenbaum, an appointee of Democratic former President Barack Obama, and Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, both of whom were appointed by Trump.

The ruling amounts to an overwhelming victory for the Justice Department, clearing the way for investigators to continue scrutinising the documents as they consider whether to bring criminal charges over the removal of top-secret records to Mar-a-Lago after Trump lost the presidential election and left the White House.

The decision to remove the hold removes an obstacle that could have delayed the investigation by weeks.


Trump's lawyers could potentially ask the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by the former president, to intervene in the matter.

A Justice Department spokesperson did not have an immediate comment. Trump's lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.

The FBI conducted a court-approved search on 8 August at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, seizing more than 11 000 documents, including about 100 marked as classified.

Although the appeals court stressed its ruling was narrow in scope, it nevertheless appeared to sharply rebuke Judge Aileen Cannon, who initially agreed to the freeze, and many of Trump's legal arguments.

"[Trump] has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents," the judges wrote. 

"Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 365 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 4476 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
12% - 634 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.09
-0.8%
Rand - Pound
20.21
-0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.74
-0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.59
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.1%
Gold
1,660.90
0.0%
Silver
19.03
0.0%
Palladium
2,166.50
0.0%
Platinum
864.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,390
+0.8%
All Share
63,726
+0.7%
Resource 10
60,230
+0.7%
Industrial 25
77,400
+0.8%
Financial 15
13,796
+0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE