The US Justice Department said Thursday it was appealing a Florida judge’s order to freeze access to thousands of documents, including top secret files, seized from former president Donald Trump’s home.
The department said the order Monday by federal court Judge Aileen Cannon to sequester all the documents for review by an independent “special master” hindered its ability to conduct criminal investigation related to Trump’s possession of the classified documents.
It asked Cannon to set aside her freeze on just over 100 classified documents seized in the August 8 raid on Trump’s Florida home and to keep them from the hands of any special master named to examine the seized materials.
The papers are part of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into unauthorized possession of national defense information, which comes under the Espionage Act, and Trump has no claim over them, the department said in its filing.
“The classified records are the very subject of the government’s ongoing investigation,” it said.
Last month’s unprecedented FBI raid on Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida Mar-a-Lago home saw thousands of government records, including the highly classified materials, retrieved.
Much of it was mixed together into dozens of boxes with Trump personal records and other things like clothing and media clippings.
Last week Trump asked Cannon to shield all of it from being examined or used in investigations, citing his executive privileges as a former president, attorney-client privileges over any personal legal documents in the trove, and also Constitutional protections from unjustified searches.
Cannon issued a freeze saying a special master could be named for an independent review of what Trump could in fact claim privilege over and what the government could keep.
The government has maintained that Trump has no right to any of the official government records, which belong to the National Archives, and especially not to the classified materials.
It has not detailed what is in the classified documents, but media reports say some are extremely restricted, and the Washington Post reported that one deals with a foreign country’s nuclear program and nuclear defenses.
The Justice Department cited the law on retaining defense materials and the law against destruction of government records for the raid.
It also cited obstruction of justice, after Trump and his attorneys told the FBI in June there were no more government or classified records in Mar-a-Lago.
In a social media posting Trump accused the FBI and Justice department of a “document hoax” and praised Cannon as “brilliant and courageous.”