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Federal Court Removes Special Master in Mar-a-Lago Investigation

— December 1, 2022

The appeals court found that there is no compelling reason that Trump, even as a former president, should be entitled to additional privileges.

A federal appeals court has ended the independent review of documents seized during the federal raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, removing a critical hurdle that the Department of Justice said was delaying its investigation into Trump’s alleged retention of classified government information.

According to The Associated Press, the unanimous decision by the three-judge panel allows the Department of Justice and other federal law enforcement investigators to access and review all of the documents taken from the former president’s residence.

President Trump and his attorneys had earlier argued that Trump, as a former commander-in-chief, was entitled to have a “special master” conduct a neutral review of the documents, deciding which were relevant to the investigation.

Trump in front of American flag. Image via Flickr/user:thejointstaff. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The Associated Press notes that ruling, issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, had been expected.

During a hearing held last week, the judges—many of whom had been appointed by Republican presidents—seemed skeptical of Trump’s arguments.

Chief Judge William Pryor, for instance, questioned why Trump should be entitled to any special protections.

“Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant,” Pryor said.

“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,” he said, “and interfere with the executive branch’s ongoing investigation.”

In their ruling, the judges said that—as unusual as a raid on a former president’s home may be—there is no compelling reason to grant Trump special privileges.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the judges wrote in their decision.

The judges also unilaterally reversed the lower court decision affording Trump the right to request a special master.

Furthermore, the panel said it appears that Trump had no practical, legal basis upon which to challenge the raid in the first place.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” the 11th Circuit wrote.

“Either approach,” the judges continued, “would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”


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