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US Justice Department freezes appeals over seized Trump documents

Secret U.S. government documents discovered by the FBI during an August 8 raid on former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago estate. – Copyright AFP Ben Stansall

The US Justice Department said Thursday it is appealing a Florida judge’s ruling to freeze access to thousands of documents, including top secret files seized from former President Donald Trump’s home.

The department said federal court judge Eileen Cannon’s order Monday to seize all documents for review by an independent “special master” hampered its ability to conduct a criminal investigation into Trump’s possession of classified documents.

He asked Cannon to lift her freeze on just over 100 classified documents seized during the Aug. 8 raid on Trump’s Florida home and keep them out of the hands of any special master assigned to examine the seized materials.

The documents are part of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into unauthorized possession of national defense information that falls under the Espionage Act, and Trump has no complaints against them, the agency said in a statement.

“The secret recordings are the subject of an ongoing government investigation,” the report said.

In an unprecedented FBI raid last month on Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, thousands of government documents, including highly classified material, were found in Mar-a-Lago.

Much of this was mixed into dozens of boxes of Trump’s personal notes and other items such as clothes and media clippings.

Last week, Trump asked Cannon to keep all of this from being studied or used in investigations, citing his executive privileges as a former president, attorney-client privileges over any personal legal documents in the treasury, and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

Cannon announced the freeze, saying a special master could be appointed to independently review what Trump can really claim privilege on and what the government can keep.

The government claims that Trump has no right to any official government records that belong to the National Archives, and especially to classified materials.

It did not specify what the classified documents contain, but media reports say some of them are severely restricted, with the Washington Post reporting that one of them is about a foreign nation’s nuclear program and nuclear defense.

The Justice Department cited the law on the storage of defense materials and the law on the destruction of government documents for the raid.

It also spoke of obstruction of justice after Trump and his lawyers told the FBI in June that there were no more government or classified records in Mar-a-Lago.

In a social media post, Trump accused the FBI and the Justice Department of “document forgery” and praised Cannon as “brilliant and brave.”

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