“The court’s order hamstrings that investigation and places the FBI and Department of Justice … under a Damoclean threat of contempt,” DOJ lawyers said in their 29-page filing, adding, “It also irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to [Trump’s] counsel.”
Late last night the Department of Justice appealed Judge Loose Cannon’s ruling in the battle over the classified documents that Trump stole on his way out of the White House.
Ryan J. Reilly at NBC News: Justice Department asks appeals court to block Trump judge’s Mar-a-Lago ruling.
The Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling that prevents it from accessing hundreds of pages of classified records seized amid the thousands of pages of government documents taken from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The district court has entered an unprecedented order enjoining the Executive Branch’s use of its own highly classified records in a criminal investigation with direct implications for national security,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion Friday.
The Justice Department hadpreviously argued that any delay in its investigation into Donald Trump’s handling and retention of government records, including classified records, could result in “irreparable harm” to the government and the public….
The Justice Department on Friday argued that any considerations of claims for return of property or attorney-client and executive privilege were “categorically inapplicable to the records bearing classification markings.”
“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the government and were seized in a court-authorized search,” the Justice Department wrote.
Although Trump previously suggested he had declassified or designated documents seized from his home as “personal,” the Justice Department said he “has never represented that he in fact took either of those steps — much less supported such a representation with competent evidence. The court erred in granting extraordinary relief based on unsubstantiated possibilities.”
The Justice Department also argued that its request for a limited stay wouldn’t disrupt the special master’s review of other materials and “irreparably harms the government by enjoining critical steps of an ongoing criminal investigation and needlessly compelling disclosure of highly sensitive records, including to Plaintiff’s counsel.”
More from Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Justice Dept. asks appeals court to restore access to Trump raid documents.
In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Friday night, prosecutors said the government is facing irreparable harm as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling putting the potentially classified records off-limits to the investigative team until an outside expert conducts a review of them and considers Trump’s objections to their seizure.
The Justice Department’s widely expected escalation of the legal fight came one day after the Trump-appointed judge rebuffed prosecutors’ request for a stay that would essentially carve out the national security-related records — some bearing markings such as “Top Secret/SCI” — from the outside oversight Trump’s legal team requested.
The filing was an unsparing rejection of Cannon’s handling of the entire matter, saying it has jeopardized national security, is based on flimsy or baseless interpretations of executive privilege and could enable further obstruction of efforts to recover additional missing documents.
“The government’s need to proceed apace is heightened where, as here, it has reason to believe that obstructive acts may impede its investigation,” prosecutors wrote….
The inability of federal prosecutors to advance their criminal probe has complicated separate efforts by the intelligence community to assess the harm that may have been caused by their improper storage in Trump’s unsecured storage room, prosecutors say, contending that the criminal investigation is inextricably tied to the national security review.
And prosecutors suggested that the restrictions on the FBI’s criminal work would prevent investigators from determining what may have once resided in dozens of empty folders, also bearing classification marks, found among Trump’s belongings.
“The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing,” prosecutors indicated in the filing.
This is from a column by Harry Litman at The Los Angeles Times: The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is.
The opinion’s essential flaws go well beyond straining the law and stretching facts in favor of Donald Trump. The ruling rests on the most basic dereliction of judicial responsibility, and it represents a complete departure from the bedrock principle of separation of powers.
Cannon was actually handed a graceful way back from her also broadly pilloried opinion last week, in which she had determined that a special master was required to review the government documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department asked for a modest stay extending to only 100 pages of classified material found at the beach resort. It is beyond controversy that such documents are off-limits to a private citizen like the former president.
Trump’s lawyers did not try to contest that principle. Rather they argued, bizarrely, that just because the government said the documents were classified, it wasn’t necessarily so.
That, of course, is spectacular gibberish. The very meaning of classified documents is that the executive branch has made a determination about their content and marked them classified.
But Cannon adopted Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach. She concluded that it would not be “appropriate” — the closest thing to legal reasoning in her opinion — “to accept the government’s conclusion on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third-party,” that is, a special master.
Cannon, in essence, is redefining the classification process to be simply a provisional executive branch judgment subject to overruling by individual judges such as herself. Apart from its legal bankruptcy, such a process would wreak bedlam in matters of national intelligence, which turn on the very designations that Cannon set aside.
More crazy from Judge Loose Cannon:
The Trump team’s next gambit, which the judge also adopted, was even more logically and legally threadbare. The former president has argued repeatedly in public that he declassified the documents. But his attorneys have studiously avoided saying that in court papers, where lies are subject to professional and criminal penalties. The Trump filings indicate only that he perhaps had declassified the documents.
The appropriate response for a judge in these circumstances is to put Trump on the stand and ask him, “Did you or didn’t you?” Failing that, “perhaps” means the matter is not established and the argument loses.
But Cannon either does not know or does not care what judges do in such a situation. It is important to emphasize that she isn’t simply leaning in Trump’s direction, she’s falling all over him.
Judges sit to resolve disputes, on the basis of evidence. Trump’s team offered none for his positions, relying instead on only the most speculative arguments. It is elementary to the adversary system of justice that evidence and the law, not speculation, determine outcomes. Nothing in the Trump team’s filings justifies freezing a criminal justice investigation and national intelligence review in their tracks.
The DOJ has appealed and now we’ll have to wait and see what the 11th Circuit judges have to say.
There were a couple of new revelations yesterday about people close to Trump and the stolen government documents.
The Washington Post: Trump team claimed boxes at Mar-a-Lago were only news clippings.