WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday sought U.S. Supreme Court intervention in the fight over government papers recovered from his Mar-a-Lago home, asking the justices to let a court-appointed special master review 100 documents with classified markings.
The move escalates what already was an extraordinary showdown, as the Justice Department investigates whether Trump or his aides illegally took sensitive government records when he left office and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.
A federal appeals court last month partially blocked an order issued by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who has appointed a special master to review about 11,000 documents recovered in a court-authorized search in August.
“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 argued in an application filed with Justice Clarence Thomas, who is assigned to handle emergency matters from Florida.
In its Sept. 21 order, the three-judge panel said it “cannot discern why plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings.” The panel consisted of two judges appointed by Trump and one by former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s lawyers repeated claims they made in the lower courts that Trump, as a sitting president, had sweeping authority to declassify documents. They again stayed away from declaring outright that’s what happened with the Mar-a-Lago documents.
The appeals court rejected suggestions that Trump had declassified the documents.
“The declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal,” the panel said. “So even if we assumed that plaintiff did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them.”
Cannon had blocked federal investigators from using the documents with classified markings in the criminal probe while the special master did his review. The Justice Department also challenged that injunction and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, allowing them to resume using those materials. Trump’s lawyers made clear they were not challenging that part of the appeals court’s decision.