Former US President Donald Trump has faced two legal setbacks in two days in a case involving government secrets stashed at his home. On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled The Judiciary reserves the right to continue examining these documents. The lower court had earlier ruled that the judiciary could not further investigate the seized documents. Special Master, a neutral arbiter, she saw. The court — two judges appointed by then-President Trump and one appointed by President Obama — had little say in the ruling.
On Tuesday, Trump and his lawyers were already reprimanded by the same special master judge, Raymond Deary. While the former president has insisted that he does not have any classified government documents at his home, his lawyers have refused to cite documents that the Justice Department says do not contain government secrets. “It’s one of two,” Special Master Deery said in his New York courtroom. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
The appeals court’s comments on Wednesday are closely linked to the issue of document classification. Trump “suggests that he may have classified these documents while he was president,” the court wrote. “But there is no evidence in the case files that this happened to any of the documents. When he appeared for the special teacher, [Trump] Present any evidence to support his claim that he classified any of these fragments.
Boxes of documents
Deary, 76, has been appointed as a special master at Trump’s request and with the approval of the Justice Department to investigate the documents in question. These are the pieces Trump took to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida when he had to leave the White House after his election defeat in January 2021. By law, those documents must be turned over to the National Archives, although presidents can routinely request that certain documents be kept.
Trump and his lawyers have been at odds with the Justice Department for more than a year, first over the National Archives and beginning in 2022. After the archive retrieved 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago, staff determined that the records contained in them included documents marked confidential or confidential. Top secret.
The court’s ruling was limited, but it contained ominous implications for Trump
Since then, Trump has refused to hand over any documents requested by the archives. His lawyers asked for a postponement of the archive. In June of this year, one of them signed a statement saying that after a “careful search” of Trump’s residence, no other confidential or state secret documents were found. The FBI was called in because there was information in the archives from Trump staff that the report was false. He searched for Mar-a-Lago on August 8.
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An empty comment
Even after discovering dozens of secret and top-secret government documents, Trump and his lawyers have maintained that the documents are not classified. According to Trump, he has “declassified all the documents”, in other words: stripped of secret status. This is an empty opinion, the court wrote in its judgment. “Declassifying a document does not change its content, nor does it alter its status as a private document.”
If the court’s ruling is only relevant to whether the justices can proceed with an investigation into the documents, Trump’s case has ominous implications. “A ruling that bars or prevents the use of classified material in a criminal investigation poses a real and serious danger to the United States and its people.”
This article was updated at 5:30 a.m. Thursday following the appeals court’s ruling.
A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2022 issue of the newspaper
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