An appeals court on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request to block a hold by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon related to the seizure of sensitive documents at former President Trump’s Florida estate.
The ruling by the three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that Cannon mistakenly prevented federal prosecutors from using 100 documents with classification markings as part of the criminal probe.
“It is self-evident that the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of the classified records did not result in ‘exceptionally grave damage to the national security,’” they wrote. “Ascertaining that,” they added, “necessarily involves reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods are compromised.”
The ruling clears the way for the DOJ to resume its use of the documents as it evaluates whether to bring criminal charges amid an inquiry into the presence of top-secret government records held at Mar-a-Lago.
The government had argued that its investigation had been impeded by the order from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that temporarily barred investigators from continuing to use the documents in the probe. Cannon, a Trump appointee, had said the hold would remain in place pending a separate review by an independent arbiter she had appointed at the Trump team’s request.
The FBI last month seized roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification markings, during a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach club. It has launched a criminal investigation into whether the records were mishandled or compromised. It is not clear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.
On Sept. 5, Cannon said she would name an independent special master to review the records and take out any that are covered by attorney-client privilege. Raymond Dearie, the former chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, has been named to that role.
The Justice Department unsuccessfully argued a special master was not necessary.