By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Former president Donald Trump on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in his fight with the Justice Department over classified documents seized from his Florida home as part of a criminal investigation into his handling of government records.
Trump filed an emergency request asking the justices to block part of a lower court's ruling that prevented an independent arbiter requested by Trump, known as a special master, from vetting more than 100 documents marked as classified that were among 11,000 records seized by FBI agents at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on Aug. 8.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 21 repudiated a decision by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who had temporarily barred the department from examining the seized classified documents until the special master, who was requested by Trump, had weeded out any that could be deemed privileged and withheld from investigators.
Trump's lawyers in Tuesday's filing said the Justice Department has "attempted to criminalize a document management dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that provides much-needed oversight."
The court-approved Mar-a-Lago search was conducted as part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally retained documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 after his failed 2020 re-election bid and whether Trump tried to obstruct the probe.
The investigation seeks to determine who accessed classified materials, whether they were compromised and if any remain unaccounted for. At issue in the 11th Circuit ruling were documents bearing classified markings of confidential, secret, or top secret.
Cannon, presiding over Trump's lawsuit seeking to restrict Justice Department access to the seized documents, barred review of all of the seized materials and appointed a special master to review the records, impeding the investigation.
On Sept. 15, Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, rejected the Justice Department's request that she partially lift her order on the classified materials as it impeded the government's effort to mitigate potential national security risks from their possible unauthorized disclosure.
The three-judge 11th Circuit panel included two judges appointed by Trump and one by former president Barack Obama.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung and Nate Raymond in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)