Trump asks Supreme Court to weigh in on review of classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago

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WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump filed an emergency appeal at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the justices to review part of an appeals court order dealing with classified documents seized at his Florida estate in early August.

The appeal came days after a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said investigators could retain the classified documents and review them as part of a criminal investigation. The documents, the appeals court reasoned, belong to the government, not the former president.

Trump's attorneys focused on one aspect of the ruling in their appeal to the Supreme Court: Whether an independent special master appointed to review some of the material seized at Mar-a-Lago could also review the classified documents. That independent review is needed, Trump told the court, "to determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified." 

Explained: Why is Donald Trump asking the Supreme Court to intervene?

It was not immediately clear how the broader review of the documents would be affected if Trump won his appeal. The Justice Department declined comment.

"Any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a president’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice," Trump's attorneys said in the filing.

The litigation stems from an Aug. 8 FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, which came as part of a federal investigation into allegations he took classified documents from the White House when he left office. A district court prohibited authorities from reviewing 11,000 documents and appointed a special master to assess whether Trump could keep some of the papers out of the government's hands.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis.

The appeals court blocked a narrow but critical part of that decision, ruling that criminal investigators could continue to review – and would not have to turn over to the special master – about 100 documents that were marked as classified.

Two of the three appeals court judges were nominated by Trump. The third was nominated by former President Barack Obama. The decision was unanimous.

Trump's lawyers argued that the 11th Circuit was wrong to segregate about 100 documents marked classified from the special master's review of about 11,000 documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department sought to retain custody of the documents for its criminal investigation. But all of the documents should be available to the special master and to Trump or his designee because the former president should retain access to all administration documents under the Presidential Records Act (PRA), according to his lawyers. "Given this absolute right of access under the PRA, there is therefore no valid basis to preclude such review," Trump's lawyers wrote.

The appeal draws the Supreme Court into another high-profile political fight involving the former president.

Despite nominating three associate justices during his time in the White House – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – Trump's record at the Supreme Court has been spotty, at best. The high court repeatedly brushed aside pro-Trump efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election, for instance.

Appeals: Court grants DOJ investigative access to Trump classified documents

District: Judge approves special master to review documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Because the case is filed on the Supreme Court's emergency docket, the justices could resolve the dispute relatively quickly – potentially within a matter of days.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump asks Supreme Court to weigh in on classified document fight