Attorneys for former President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice tried to convince a federal appeals court Tuesday to rule in their favor over the appointment of a special master to review thousands of documents seized by the FBI in a search warrant on Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in August.
The DOJ is urging a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta to remove the special master requirement and allow it unfettered access to the documents, many of which are marked classified. Two of the judges at the hearing, Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher, are Trump appointees. The third, Chief Judge William Pryor Jr., was appointed by George W. Bush.
The Florida judge, Aileen Cannon, who appointed the special master blocked the DOJ from using the seized records as part of its investigation. The appeals court allowed the DOJ to view about 100 documents marked classified, but the DOJ wants access to all the documents, which total about 13,000.
"That extraordinary judicial intrusion into a core executive branch function should be reversed," said Sopan Joshi, assistant to the Solicitor General, representing the DOJ in oral arguments.
Trump attorney James Trusty said the DOJ's argument the government's investigation has been slowed by the special master, who is veteran New York Judge Raymond Dearie, is overblown.
"It is not realistic for the government to complain that this has hobbled their ability to investigate," Trusty said.
Trusty said the case is extraordinary because "there's not a situation in the history of this country where a sitting president authorized a raid of a presidential candidate's home."
Brasher grilled Trusty's assertion about the case being so extraordinary that it needed intervention from an outside arbiter.
"Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant," Brasher 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 have a district court … and interfere with the executive branch's ongoing investigation."
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