Trump asks US Supreme Court to weigh in on document dispute

Former president’s lawyers ask top court to allow ‘special master’ to vet documents before they are reviewed by gov’t.

Donald Trump in suit and red tie, pointing with both hands with US flag behind him
Former US President Donald Trump has called the investigation into his possible mishandling of classified documents a 'hoax' [File: Chery Dieu-Nalio/Reuters]

Washington, DC – Donald Trump has asked the United States Supreme Court to halt the Justice Department’s review of classified documents seized from the former president’s Florida home in August.

In a legal filing on Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers urged the top court to pause the government’s review while a neutral arbiter vets dozens of files marked as classified for privileged content.

The filing comes amid a weeks-long legal battle between the former president and the Justice Department, which is investigating Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents.

Last month, a US appeals court overturned a federal district judge’s decision to pause the government’s review while the so-called special master checks the documents taken from Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon — a Trump appointee — had ruled that the special master was needed to ensure that the government was not looking into material shielded by law, including communication between the former president and his lawyers.

Trump’s legal team said in their filing on Tuesday that the special master is providing “much-needed oversight”.

Prosecutors had pushed back against Trump’s demand for a special master, saying that they already went through the materials and identified a “limited” number of potentially privileged documents.

They also argued that delaying the review would “irreparably” harm the criminal investigation.

But Trump’s lawyers have been raising doubt on whether files marked as classified are indeed secret documents — an argument they reiterated in their filing on Tuesday.

“The Government’s position presumes certain documents are in fact classified, affording President Trump no opportunity to contend otherwise,” they wrote.

“This presumption is at the core of the dispute. Since President Trump had absolute authority over classification decisions during his Presidency, the current status of any disputed document cannot possibly be determined solely by reference to the markings on that document.”

Trump and his allies have dismissed the investigation, saying without evidence that it is politically motivated.

Earlier on Tuesday, the former president called the probe a “hoax”, writing on his Truth Social platform that the Mar-a-Lago search was “unwarranted, unnecessary, and possibly illegal”.

President Joe Biden has denied having prior knowledge of the search and insisted that the White House does not interfere in Justice Department-led investigations.

On Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers noted in their appeal to the Supreme Court that the investigation was launched by the “administration of his political rival and successor”. They also portrayed the probe as a “document management dispute”.

The nine-justice Supreme Court has a conservative majority with three members appointed by Trump. It is unclear when the court will issue a decision.

Source: Al Jazeera