Legal experts criticized the judge who denied an FBI request to access classified info seized from Trump at Mar-a-Lago

Legal experts criticized the judge who denied an FBI request to access classified info seized from Trump at Mar-a-Lago
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  • Legal analysts criticized a judge's ruling on the FBI's Mar-a-Lago probe.

  • The judge refused a request by the FBI to resume inspecting classified information retrieved there.

  • They say the judge's claim the classified status of the documents is uncertain is baseless.

Legal analysts responded harshly to a federal judge's ruling denying an FBI request to resume inspecting classified information retrieved from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

The  judge, Aileen Cannon, in the ruling said she did not accept the Justice Department's claim: that about 100 records it wants access to are highly classified and contain information that could imperil US national security.

Cannon was appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2020. Her previous rulings in the case have also drawn accusations of pro-Trump bias.

Cannon stood by her previous ruling that an independent official, or special master, should review the documents to establish if this is the case.

The ruling stunned some legal experts, who said Trump had offered no evidence in court disputing the classified status of the records. He has claimed in interviews that he broadly declassified the records, but his lawyers notably have not repeated that argument in court. 

"This ruling flies in the face of practically an entire generation worth of case law concerning classified information," Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, told Insider.

"In sixteen years, I have never seen a judge so cavalierly disregard agency declarations regarding the classification status of documents, to say nothing of the risk to national security, and certainly not when the opposing party failed to provide a scintilla of evidence contradicting the government's explanations."

Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department special counsel, picked apart her claim that there are "ongoing factual and legal disputes" over the status of the documents.

"What factual dispute? Trump never asserted he declassified the docs," he wrote.

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman described the ruling as "bizarre" and "atrocious" in an interview on CNN Thursday.

He said the ruling was "atrocious, aberrant, because the Justice Department said, 'We just wanna look at these 100 classified documents.' That's what was immediately before her.

"The only thing Trump said in response is, 'Classified? Who says they're classified?' Oh, except the government. How does something become classified? Because the government, the official authority classified."

National security attorney Mark Zaid echoed those concerns, saying Cannon had been oddly dismissive of the FBI's security concerns.

"I have never seen a federal judge disregard Executive Branch classification concerns to such an extent as Judge Cannon did tonight," he tweeted.

Andrew Weissman, one of the lead prosecutors on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, was incredulous at the decision.

"Judge Cannon is a partisan hack: she says it is "disputed" that the documents are classified, but Trump never said in court he declassified them and submitted NO evidence, so the only evidence before her is that they are and are so marked. She really is totally in the tank here," he tweeted.

The FBI in its August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago retrieved stashes of government records, including highly classified information, which officials believe Trump wrongly took with him after leaving office.

The DOJ in a recent court filing submitted a picture showing folders of records with clear "classified" markings that had been retrieved in Mar-a-Lago from a box that also contained old Time magazine covers featuring Trump.

The FBI has argued that without access to the documents it can't properly establish the potential national risks that the lax storage of the documents created.

Trump's lawyers have argued that some of the documents are protected under executive privilege rules meant to shield some private presidential communications from scrutiny by Congress or courts.

Cannon appointed a special master, named Thursday as Judge Raymond Dearie, partly to screen the documents for information that falls in this category.

But classified information, and records from government agencies, cannot be shielded under privilege rules. And, as analysts pointed out Thursday, Trump had offered no arguments in court disputing the classified status of the documents.

Trump has offered a range of other arguments not repeated by his lawyers in response to the raid, claiming the FBI is politically persecuting him, and claiming without evidence that agents planted evidence during the search.

The DOJ is likely to appeal Cannon's ruling.

Read the original article on Business Insider