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Appeals court dismisses Trump lawsuit in Mar-a-Lago documents case

 


The ruling by George W. Bush-appointed Circuit Court Chief Justice William Pryor and two of Trump’s own appeals court picks represents another major setback for the former president and a clear victory for the Ministry of Justice. Prosecutors had used the records as part of a criminal investigation into the alleged withholding of national security information, theft of government records and obstruction of justice.

Trump can appeal the ruling either to the full bench of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court, but both perspectives are considered a long shot.

Trump has complained bitterly about the federal investigation, decrying it as a weaponization of the justice system. But appeals judges concluded the special procedure was not warranted because Trump’s lawyers failed to show that law enforcement acted with complete disregard for his rights.

The panel said that instead, Trump was seeking a special exclusion for former presidents to receive exceptional treatment that others facing similar searches would not receive. Such special treatment was not warranted, the judges ruled.

It is indeed extraordinary that a warrant should 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. they backed.

The ruling appears likely to end Trump’s most successful legal scheme of his post-presidency: an effort by his attorneys to work with U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, to effectively put the investigation to rest. Mar-a-Lago in the supervisory court by constraining and delaying the investigation.

The 11th Circuits’ decision comes just two weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former head of the Justice Department’s public corruption section, Jack Smith, to serve as special counsel overseeing the Mar- a-Lago as well as an investigation into alleged efforts by Trump and his allies to interfere with the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The appellate courts’ decision sidelined U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie, the attorney Cannon hired to serve as special counsel in the case. Dearie has worked hard on the case, assigning a former investigative judge to help review the cases and working toward a mid-December deadline to resolve differences between Trump and the Justice Department over documents.

Trumps’ lawyers argued the Justice Department acted improperly by using a magistrate-issued search warrant to seize Trumps’ Palm Beach, Florida records, rather than using a civil suit mechanism included in the Presidential Records Act. Lawyers for the former president also claimed that he effectively converted official documents into personal property by taking them to Florida and keeping them after he left office.

But prosecutors argue that other legal options have no bearing on their ability to seize evidence with the court’s blessing in a criminal investigation. They also rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege, saying the doctrine has no relevance when the records are sought or obtained by the executive branch.

The appeals court panel repeatedly emphasized that it viewed Cannon as taking unprecedented steps to help Trump.

On several occasions, the district court stepped in with its own reasoning to land on Trump’s side in the argument, even offering positions that Trump himself did not take up in his appeal.

The panel stressed that Trump’s belated attempt to claim his records were personal property and not presidential records had no bearing on whether the FBI was authorized to seize them under a search warrant. legal.

If there was no constitutional violation, let alone a serious violation, there is no harm to repair in the first place, the panel ruled.

The canon order imposing the special master was strongly criticized by an unusually wide range of the legal community.

Liberal attorneys and defense attorneys have noted that such surveillance is rarely imposed when sought by targets of criminal investigations, with rare exceptions almost always involving searches of law offices. Conservative lawyers who support strict separation of powers principles have complained that the process ordered by Cannon impinged on the executive branch’s right to pursue its investigation without interference from the judiciary.

Prosecutors won a first round of the legal battle on the 11th Circuit two months ago, when a three-judge panel unanimously accepted a stay that effectively extracted from the special master process about 100 documents with classification marks such as top secret.

The move, which amounted to a scathing rebuke of Trump’s stance and gun order, restored the government’s ability to continue its investigation into the national security implications of highly sensitive documents in unsecured spaces. at Mar-a-Lago, which functions as Trump’s home. , post-presidency office and a private club.

Two of the judges on the panel who issued the most recent ruling, Grant and Brasher, were also among those who granted the government’s emergency stay request. Their selection for the larger case signaled that Trump was likely to face an uphill battle.

Sources

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2/ https://www.politico.com/news/2022/12/01/appeals-court-tosses-trumps-lawsuit-over-mar-a-lago-search-00071743

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