The US Department of Justice is seeking an end to the arbitrator’s review of the Mar-a-Lago papers

By Eric Tucker | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday ordered a federal appeals court to halt the work of an independent arbitrator appointed last month to review documents seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

The appeal is the latest salvo in a week-long legal battle over the remit of the umpire, also known as the special master, who has been tasked with inspecting the recordings made during the August 8 raid of Mar-a-Lago and weeding out all of them which may be protected by legal privileges.

The special master’s procedure has caused some delays in the Justice Department’s investigation into the storage of top-secret documents at the home. But a major hurdle was cleared last month when the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit lifted a temporary ban on the department’s ability to use the confiscated classified documents as part of its criminal investigation.

The move allowed a core aspect of the investigation to be reopened, greatly reducing the likelihood that the trial could have a significant impact on the investigation. Still, the department’s attorneys returned to court on Friday to seek a halt to the entire special audit, saying the judge who made the appointment had no basis for doing so and Trump was not entitled to an independent review of the records seized or to claim privileges over them.

“Plaintiff has no reasonable claim to executive privilege with respect to any of the materials seized and no reasonable claim to personal attorney-client privilege with respect to the government records — including any records bearing classification markings — seized,” the department’s brief said.

“Accordingly,” they added, “the Special Master Review process is not warranted.”

The Justice Department says it seized about 13,000 records, including about 100 with classification marks, in its August court-authorized search. The department is conducting a criminal investigation into the keeping of these records and whether anyone interfered with their investigation.

As part of the investigation, the FBI has interviewed several Trump aides, including an attorney for him, who acted as the records manager and gave investigators a signed letter in June, assuring that all classified records requested by the Justice Department were intact had been filed a subpoena had been located and delivered.

Believing other records remained at the home, agents returned in August with a search warrant and removed 33 boxes of documents, including material classified as top secret.

Weeks later, the Trump team asked a Florida judge, Aileen Cannon, to appoint a special master to conduct an independent review of the records. Cannon agreed and appointed an experienced Brooklyn judge, Raymond Dearie, to inspect the records and sever from the rest of the investigation any documents that could potentially be covered by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

The 11th Circuit then lifted Cannon’s ban on the Department’s use of the classified documents in its investigation pending the review of Dearie, as well as the requirement that the Department of Justice present those specific records to Dearie for review.

The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request by Trump’s attorneys to intervene in the dispute.

The Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed the idea that a special master’s review was required, and while it was able to resume reviewing the classified records, it said its investigation was hampered by its inability to examine the much larger body of unclassified records will continue to use slowed documents as part of his investigation.

“The district court’s injunction prohibiting the review and use of the other seized records also harms the government and the public,” the department said. “A magistrate has already found probable reason to believe that these records could constitute evidence of crimes and the government has shown a clear need for them.” The US Department of Justice is seeking an end to the arbitrator’s review of the Mar-a-Lago papers

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