Wed. Feb 1st, 2023

WASHINGTON, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Friday accelerated an appeal against an order appointing a special director to review records seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

In a court filing late Friday, the Justice Department said its lack of access to unclassified documents still hinders important aspects of its investigation into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago government records retention.

The Justice Department asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to order all documents in the case to be filed by Nov. 11 and to hold any necessary hearings on the case as soon as the briefing is complete.

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Trump’s lawyers opposed the request, the administration said. Trump spokesman Tyler Budovich said in an email: “After spending weeks preparing their arguments, the Justice Department is now waging an unnecessary fight over the nine-day difference in filing schedules. .”

The Justice Department said it was unable to examine documents stored with classified material because it is currently barred from accessing the roughly 11,000 unclassified documents seized in the search.

The government said the unclassified records “may reveal” how the documents were transferred to or stored at Mar-a-Lago and who may have accessed them.

The records could also serve as evidence of violations of federal regulations on obstructing and concealing or erasing government records, according to filings Friday.

The Justice Department said that if the government wins an appeal, the accelerated timetable could “resume a full investigation sooner without restricting its review and use of evidence seized under a lawful search warrant.”

If the Atlanta-based appeals court rules in favor of the Justice Department, it will end litigation over material seized in the search and an external review of those documents, government lawyers added.

The review, conducted by Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, is currently scheduled to conclude on Dec. 16.

An appeals court this month upheld the Justice Department’s reversal of parts of U.S. District Judge Erin Cannon’s ruling that prevented the Justice Department from relying on classified material obtained in searches as part of its investigation, such as bringing up sensitive records. The content of witness interviews or charges brought before a grand jury.

As part of the proceedings, the 11th Circuit also blocked Dearie’s access to confidential records.

Cannon on Sept. 5 granted Trump’s request for a third-party review of the seized documents, despite objections from the Justice Department. The process has been delayed because Trump and the administration have not yet been able to contract outside vendors to host documents as part of the review.

Cannon also on Thursday rejected Deeley’s instructions for Trump to verify a list of documents removed from the property, after lawyers for the former president argued that the request was beyond the purview of the special master.

Trump claimed without evidence that FBI agents planted evidence during a search of his resort on Aug. 8, but his lawyers have not repeated the same allegations in court.

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Rami Ayyub and Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella in Maryland; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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