Donald Trump is currently running for the White House again, but unfortunately, he also remains the target of a federal criminal investigation.
A special master had been previously appointed to go over the documents taken by the former president to Mar-a-Lago, documents which resulted in the FBI raiding the residence back in the summer. Now, a federal appeals court has overruled that appointment, ordering the review of documents to cease.
A federal appeals court panel on Thursday halted an outside review of thousands of documents seized from former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence, ruling that a lower-court judge was wrong to appoint an expert to decide whether any of the material should be shielded from criminal investigators.
Trump sought the outside arbiter, known as a special master, after the FBI executed a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club, on Aug. 8, retrieving more than 13,000 documents related to Trump’s time in the White House. About 100 of the documents were classified, and some contained extremely sensitive government secrets, according to court records.
This is a major victory for the Department of Justice given the decision affirms that the documents seized were done so lawfully and can be used in the government’s criminal investigation. Any concerns about attorney-client privilege by the Trump camp are now moot as the DOJ will once again be able to decide based on the honor system.
As to who made up the panel from the 11th Circuit that made the decision, the answer is two Trump-era appointees and one Bush-era appointee. That’s going to make it difficult to charge bias. Whether the legal argument being put forth is sound or not, I can’t say. It’d take someone with more experience in that arena than I have to answer that.
What I can comment on is what I think this means as far as the case goes, and honestly, I don’t think it means much. The special master who was working on the case, Raymond Dearie (proposed by Trump’s team), had already suggested he didn’t believe the former president’s explanation. Further, at the end of the day, the special master was never going to return government documents to Trump. Anyone that thought that was kidding themselves.
So does this really change? Probably not. The DOJ was always likely to gain the ability to use the documents in a future prosecution even with the appointment of the special master. What this does is move the timeline up a bit. Still, it’s a major defeat on the PR front because the timeline is important here. If Trump is indicted before the primaries begin in early 2024, that could be decisive for his chances. He had hoped to run out the clock, but that doesn’t appear likely now.