Appeals Court Throws Out Special Master in Trump Case

Former president should not enjoy legal exceptions not available to other Americans, judges write
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2022 6:00 PM CST
Appeals Court Rules Against Trump on Special Master
Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on Aug. 31. The FBI seized documents there that month.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

A federal appeals court put a stop Thursday to a special master's review of documents the FBI confiscated in August at former President Donald Trump's home. A lower court judge had appointed the special master at Trump's request, taking a rare action that was undone and criticized by the appeals court, CNN reports. US District Judge Aileen Cannon of Florida had rejected the Justice Department's argument that presidents don't have executive privileges once they're out of office; Trump said executive privilege might apply to some of the documents. The panel's opinion said that Trump was not entitled to special treatment, per the Washington Post.

"The law is clear," the opinion says, per Axios. "We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so." An exception, the judges said, "would defy our Nation's foundational principle that our law applies 'to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.'" The ruling will take effect in seven days, the court said, unless a stay blocks it while the case is appealed. Trump's legal team is considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court, per CNN.

The judges rejected Cannon's suggestion that Trump deserved special treatment. "It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president—but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation," they wrote. Two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Trump, the third by President George W. Bush. The decision allows the Justice Department to continue its investigation of Trump's handling of classified documents, unhampered by the third-party review, barring Supreme Court intervention. (Read more Trump investigation stories.)

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