Appeals Court Scraps Special Master Review in Trump Documents Case

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A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of sensitive government documents by ending an outside review of the records.

In a strongly worded ruling, the three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit shut down an independent review of thousands of documents seized this summer from Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. That move allowed the government to pursue its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago home and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.

The unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling was sharply critical of Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s decision in September to intervene in the case, saying she never had jurisdiction to do so.

“The law is clear,” the appeals court wrote. “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. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our case law limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”

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