DOJ wins at appeals court over Trump judge's controversial ruling
Judge with Gavel (Shutterstock)

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stayed a controversial ruling by a Florida district court judge that had effectively blocked the Justice Department and national security agencies from reviewing highly classified documents seized by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

That order, by Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon, had found that the former president had a compelling interest to those documents not being accessed by the executive branch until a special master had reviewed them for privilege, including executive privilege on behalf of Trump — even though no court has ever ruled former presidents have such privilege or that this privilege outweighs the U.S. government's interest in preventing breaches of classified information.

In the 11th Circuit order obtained by POLITICO, a panel of three judges — including two who were also appointed by Trump — put that order on hold, suggesting that the Justice Department is likely to prevail against Trump on the merits.

According to the ruling, Trump "has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents."

Other parts of Cannon's ruling, including that appointing the special master, were left in place, as the Justice Department did not object to those measures.

This comes one day after the special master Cannon appointed, Senior Judge Raymond Dearie, harshly grilled Trump's attorneys in his first hearing on the classified documents, demanding that they take a position on the former president's repeated public claims that he had retroactively declassified that information — noting that the DOJ has already provided "prima facie" evidence the documents should in fact be presumed classified.