The unanimous ruling sided with the Department of Justice and found that Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, did not have the jurisdiction to appoint a special master to review the case.
“We agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required,” the court’s ruling said.
The panel also reaffirmed that judicial interference in the early stages of DOJ investigations should only take place in “extraordinary” situations — a standard that they argued had not been met.
“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president – but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” according to the panel.
The judges also argued that Cannon’s order represented a violation of the separation of powers. They argued that the “extraordinary” circumstances standard “guards against needless judicial intrusion into the course of criminal investigations — a sphere of power committed to the executive branch.”
The panel included George W. Bush appointee William Pryor, as well as two judges appointed during Trump’s tenure in office, according to Axios.
Cannon’s order from early September appointed a special master to determine if any of the over 11,000 documents taken from Mar-a-Lago fell under executive privilege. He was also given the power to serve as a mediator between the DOJ and Trump.
Trump’s legal team argued that a special master was necessary because some of the documents seized by the FBI were protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege, because Trump had the power to declassify the documents, and because the DOJ’s own dedicated privilege team did not have adequate “protocols” for this case, according to the ruling.
Cannon appointed Raymond Dearie, a senior U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of New York, to serve as special master in the case after Trump’s team proposed his appointment and the DOJ agreed.
Trump’s legal team has reportedly not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.
The court’s ruling removes a barrier to the DOJ’s criminal investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified U.S. government records.
The DOJ announced on November 18 that Jack Smith, who has spent years at the International Criminal Court in The Hague prosecuting war crimes, will serve as the special counsel overseeing two of the department’s criminal investigations into Trump — including the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents.
Trump told Fox News in an exclusive interview after the announcement that he would not “partake in” the investigation.
“It is unfair to the country, to the Republican Party, and I don’t think people should accept it,” he added. “I am not going to accept it.”
Trump then asked why a special prosecutor had not been appointed in the DOJ’s criminal investigation of Hunter Biden.
“Why isn’t there a special counsel being set up for them?” Trump asked of Hunter and his father, President Joe Biden. “Tremendous corruption, they’re corrupt people, they’re criminals. I’ve done nothing wrong. They participated in massive criminal activity with many other nations.”
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