US: Court Allows Use of Mar-a-Lago Files in Investigation

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WASHINGTON (AP) — In a clear rejection of Donald Trump’s arguments, a federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the Justice Department to resume the use of confidential documents seized from the former president’s estate in Florida as part of its criminal grade investigation.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals marks a resounding victory for the Justice Department and paves the way for investigators to continue examining the documents as they consider whether to pursue criminal charges for storing sensitive documents Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House.

The court also found that Trump had not presented evidence that he had released the confidential documents, as he has repeatedly said, and dismissed the possibility that Trump had an “individual interest in or need for” the 100 or so marked as confidential documents might have. .

The government had argued that its investigation was hampered by District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order temporarily barring investigators from further using the documents in the investigation. Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, had said the order would be stayed pending a separate review by an independent arbitrator she appointed at the request of Trump’s team.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Justice Department’s concerns.

“It is clear that the public has a vested interest in ensuring that the holding of classified documents has not caused ‘extraordinarily serious harm to national security,’” they wrote. determine who had access to them and when, and decide what sources or methods (if any) are at risk.”

A court order that would delay or prevent a criminal investigation “into the use of confidential materials” risks causing real and significant harm to the United States and the public.

Two of the three judges who returned Wednesday’s verdict — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher — were Trump’s nominees for the 11th Circuit. Judge Robin Rosenbaum was nominated by former President Barack Obama.

Last month, the FBI seized about 11,000 documents, including about 100 classified documents, in a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach property. She has launched a criminal investigation to determine whether the documents have been mishandled or compromised. It is unclear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.

Trump has repeatedly claimed he declassified the footage. In an interview with Fox News television, taped before the Court of Appeals’ ruling, he said, “If you’re the President of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified.’”

Although his attorneys have confirmed that a president has absolute authority to release information, there is no guarantee these records were. Trump’s team this week refused to give Dearie any information that might support the idea the material might have been declassified, saying the matter could form part of his defense in the event of a hypothetical charge.

For its part, the Justice Department noted that there was no evidence the former president took any action to remove protections from the material, and included in a court document a photo of some of the seized files, which had colored envelopes demonstrating their status indicated .classified. The Court of Appeals made the same finding.

“The plaintiff suggests that he could have released these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were released,” the judges wrote. d make it personal.”

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Colvin reported from New York.

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