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Dept. of Justice appeals special master review of classified documents seized by FBI

The FBI photographed documents marked "Top Secret" on the floor of former President Trump's office in Mar-a-Lago, Fla. The redacted image was included in a Justice Department filing.
The FBI photographed documents marked "Top Secret" on the floor of former President Trump's office in Mar-a-Lago, Fla. The redacted image was included in a Justice Department filing.

The Justice Department is appealing part of a judge's order that would give a special master authority to review documents the FBI collected at Mar-a-Lago last month.

Prosecutors say they have serious concerns about handing government secrets to a third party.

In her order from Monday, Cannon, a Trump appointee, also ordered federal prosecutors to pause using those documents in their investigation into obstruction and mishandling of government secrets. But she allowed the intelligence community continue its review to determine potential national security risks from the classified material being kept outside of a secure government facility.

The decision from the DOJ to appeal was expected.

In a filing last week, the department made clear they did not support Trump's ask for a special master, which is an independent third party, typically an attorney, appointed by the judge to review materials seized in a search for anything that may be protected from investigation by attorney-client privilege, or executive privilege as Trump is claiming.

In their filing Thursday, the government is asking for a stay on the judge's order to halt its use of these classified records for its criminal investigation and that it turn over these documents to a special master for review. Authorities want to be able to review those classified papers freely and don't want to give them to any third party right now.

In its filing the government says the intelligence community has paused its security review because it is impossible to segregate it from the criminal probe. Additionally the government said it wants to know what was in the empty folders marked classified, which were also seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department is asking that Cannon rule on both these matters by Thursday September 15th and failing that, it "intends to seek relief from the Eleventh Circuit."

Cannon had set a deadline of Friday, Sept. 9, for the two parties to submit a joint filing with a list of proposed candidates to be named special master. In the filing, the government said it "will provide its views on those issues by Friday."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

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