Trump following Mar-a-Lago raid
Trump following Mar-a-Lago raidReuters

A US federal appeals court on Thursday halted a third-party review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, CNN reported.

The ruling removes a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records from Trump’s time in the White House.

The three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed US District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order appointing a so-called special master to sort through thousands of documents found at Trump’s home to determine what should be off limits to investigators. The court said the judge should not have intervened in the first place.

“The law is clear,” the appeals court wrote. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

The Justice Department, which appealed the decision to appoint the special master, is investigating obstruction of justice, criminal mishandling of government records and violations of the Espionage Act, according to court filings.

The appeals court said that its new ruling will go into effect in seven days, unless a party in the case successfully seeks an order – known as a stay – pausing the ruling from going into effect while it is appealed.

Trump’s legal team has not decided whether to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court but is weighing the option, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN.

The Justice Department effort is now being led by special counsel Jack Smith, who was recently appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to helm that probe and another investigation into efforts to reverse Trump’s 2020 election loss.