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DOJ Submits Argument Against Need for Special Master in Mar-a-Lago Docs Case

Trump’s lawyers failed to demonstrate how investigators “callously disregarded” his rights, the DOJ argues.

Former President Donald Trump spoke at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, on September 17, 2022.

On Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would appeal the remaining portions of the original order establishing a special master to review documents retrieved from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The DOJ has already won a partial stay on district court Judge Aileen Cannon’s order that created a special master to review all of the government documents that Trump improperly removed from the White House upon his departure from office. A three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to allow investigators to access materials with classified markings on them.

“For our part, we cannot discern why [Trump] would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the judges said in their ruling, dismissing privilege claims by Trump’s legal team.

The brief filed by the DOJ on Friday requested that the department be granted access to the remaining 11,000 non-classified documents that were retrieved, without the need for a special master.

In its brief, the DOJ called Cannon’s order an “extraordinary relief” to Trump that went beyond precedent and the letter of the law, noting that “the exercise of such jurisdiction over a pre-indictment criminal investigation is limited to exceptional cases.”

“Under this Court’s precedent, it requires, at a minimum, a showing that the government callously disregarded Plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ stated. “Nothing like this was shown in this case, as the district court acknowledged.”

Trump never made specific attorney-client privilege claims over the 11,000 non-classified documents that were retrieved, the DOJ said. A filter review already conducted by a separate team of investigators was sufficient to examine such concerns, they added.

The DOJ also said that the former president’s executive privilege claims were invalid, citing a Watergate-era case that noted “executive privilege exists ‘for the benefit of Republic,’ not any President as an individual.”

“[Trump] has no plausible claim of such a privilege with respect to the records bearing classification markings or any other government documents related to his official duties,” the brief said.

The filing comes one week after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals announced it would agree to expedite the DOJ’s full appeal of Cannon’s original ruling. Trump’s lawyers will have until November 10 to file a response to the DOJ’s brief. After that, the DOJ will have the opportunity to rebut that filing. The 11th Circuit Court will determine when to hear oral arguments on November 17.

A three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has previously expressed skepticism over Trump’s request for a special master, siding with the DOJ on the matter. Trump appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, but last week, justices refused to hear his case for blocking the 11th Circuit Court’s decision.

It’s unclear how many High Court justices voted to refuse to hear Trump’s appeal, and none have explained their reasoning for doing so.

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