The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a request from the Justice Department for an expedited schedule for dealing with an appeal from the department of the selection of what’s called a special master to take over key components of dealing with records seized by FBI agents from Mar-a-Lago.
Agents raided Mar-a-Lago in August amid an ongoing criminal investigation into the handling of classified documents from the Trump administration, and decisions by Trump-nominated federal Judge Aileen Cannon in support of Trump’s push for restricting the department’s usage of seized materials have temporarily upended investigative efforts, including those that don’t even directly involve Trump. There are continuing questions about potential security ramifications from the mishandling of documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago — questions separate from Trump’s legal liability and even separate from his claims about declassifying the materials. The 11th Circuit adopted a schedule for dealing with the department’s broad appeal that is slightly more extended than earlier department proposals but specifies no extensions are available.
An initial brief from the department is due October 14, with a reply from Trump required by November 10, and a subsequent response from the department due the 17th. The department previously sought a November 4 deadline for Trump’s initial reply followed by a November 11 cut-off for their subsequent response. In making its push, the department pointed out many facts were already established in the case and that a three-judge panel on the appeals court ruled quickly in an earlier dispute over documents marked classified.
Trump also weighed in amid the scheduling dispute, predictably opposing the effort to move up the timetable. Trump’s legal team pushed the prospect of holding oral arguments in January of next year or even after that point, potentially delaying any conclusion to the court stand-off over the selection of a special master until after their work concludes. The department already secured a win in a more limited context, with judges on the 11th Circuit allowing the investigative usage of items marked classified that were seized from Mar-a-Lago — but thousands of additional documents were also taken by agents.
The department argued the “interest of justice” would be served by speeding up the 11th Circuit review of the original selection of a special master, since additional documents that weren’t marked classified could reveal further indications of potentially criminal activity. Although Trump is focusing in large part on the documents’ classification status in making his public defenses, whether criminal acts were perpetrated doesn’t depend on supposed actions declassifying the materials. The three-judge panel handling the more limited dispute over the documents marked classified ahead of this broader challenge to selecting a special master at all already characterized arguments about the classification status as a red herring. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal,” they said.
JUST IN: Appeals court *grants* DOJ motion to expedite appeal of Judge Cannon’s order appointing special master to oversee seized Mar-a-Lago docs. pic.twitter.com/TSUip2DtVY
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) October 5, 2022