The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Wednesday held that the Department of Justice (DOJ) can resume its examination of classified documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, residence. The court’s ruling stayed a September 5 preliminary injunction from a Florida federal district judge overseeing the criminal probe.
The court held that the DOJ can resume its examination of the classified documents and is not required to submit the documents to the recently-appointed special master for review. The DOJ’s criminal probe seeks to determine who accessed the classified materials, whether any particular classified materials were compromised and whether additional classified materials are unaccounted for—among other things.
In its holding, the court found that the district court erred in determining that Trump had an interest and possession of the classified documents. The court found that Trump “has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents.” The court also dismissed Trump’s claims that he declassified the documents prior to the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, finding there was no evidence of declassification.
The court also dismissed the district court’s concern over the potential for prosecution if the DOJ continued to examine the classified documents. The court held that such concerns did not rise to a sufficient level to issue an injunction. Additionally, the court noted that the portion of the preliminary injunction that allowed for the DOJ to examine the classified documents for national security, but not criminal, purposes was untenable. The court found that, in this case, national security concerns are inextricably intertwined with the DOJ’s criminal probe into Trump’s possession of the documents.