A “special master” investigation of records taken from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has come to an end, according to a US appeals court.
The US Department of Justice is investigating whether Mr. Trump took sensitive information with him when he left the White House.
An impartial attorney known as the “special master” makes the determination of which documents fall under the executive or attorney-client privilege.
The documents can now be fully examined by investigators.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Courts of Appeal in Atlanta rendered the decision on Thursday after the Department of Justice appealed a judgment from September that had granted Mr. Trump’s request for the special master review.
In a blow to Trump the appeals court ruled that there was no “judiciary” in its decision. The ruling is seen as a win for the US Department of Justice,
The legislation is unambiguous. Any person who is the subject of a search warrant cannot be given the authority to obstruct government investigations after the order has been executed. We also cannot create a rule that restricts this to only former presidents, the court ruled.
The Department of Justice’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of secret documents would have been delayed by a special master review since the agency was not permitted to see or use the materials until it was finished.
The special master for this case was 78-year-old New York judge Raymond Dearie, who was first nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Whether Mr. Trump and his attorneys will file an appeal against Thursday’s decision is unknown.
Mr. Trump is under investigation for allegedly taking highly sensitive government information with him after leaving the White House to his private Florida residence in Mar-a-Lago.
The National Archives should have received these documents, according to the authorities, as is expected of US presidents when they leave office.
In January, the FBI seized 15 boxes of White House papers that contained “highly secret reports,” some of which were “intermixed with other information,” and Mr. Trump’s “handwritten notes,” according to sources. In August, they also took 20 more boxes.
The Department of Justice claimed that Mr. Trump stole 11 sets of secret documents from the White House in all.
The former president vigorously disputed any misconduct, asserting that as president, he had declassified all the relevant documents and that they were safely stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
When Mr. Trump’s attorneys asked for a special master, they claimed that some of the records were exempt from disclosure because of the attorney-client privilege, which is a US provision allowing persons to keep talks with their lawyers secret.