Speed Reads

Partial appeal

Justice Department asks federal judge to return access to classified files seized from Trump

The Justice Department on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to stay part of her controversial ruling granting former President Donald Trump's request for a "special master" to review more than 10,000 documents the FBI removed from Trump's Mar-a-Lago club under a search warrant. Specifically, the department asked Cannon to return access to the 100-plus classified files taken from Mar-a-Lago and bar them from review by a special master, citing national security and other concerns.

The Justice Department gave Cannon until next Thursday to stay the flagged parts of her ruling before it asks the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene. Cannon gave Trump's legal team until Monday to respond.

Cannon barred the Justice Department from using the seized documents in its investigation of Trump's handling of classified records, but allowed a parallel review of the classified material by intelligence agencies to assess any harm to national security. The Justice Department said this "bifurcation" makes no sense, because the FBI is an integral part of the intelligence community and because investigators "must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised," which is "a core aspect of the FBI's criminal investigation."

The Justice Department told Cannon the intelligence community has halted its national security assessment due to "uncertainty regarding the bounds of the court's order." A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed the temporary pause to Politico. "Without a stay, the government and public also will suffer irreparable harm from the undue delay to the criminal investigation," the Justice Department added.

"The DOJ filing amounts to a full-throated rebuke of the ruling by Cannon, a Trump appointee," Politico reports. Among other concerns, the Justice Department lawyers "delivered an unsparing assessment of Cannon's contention that Trump might have a legitimate executive privilege claim over some of the seized documents," especially the classified records.

Still, the Justice Department did offer Trump some concessions, saying it plans to give his lawyers copies of "all unclassified documents recovered during the search — both personal records and government records," and return Trump's "personal items that were not commingled with classified records and thus are of likely diminished evidentiary value."