Trump Appointees Among Judges Who Renew DOJ Access to Classified Documents

Donald Trump Judges Appeal DOJ Classified Documents
Former President Donald Trump is pictured during a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on September 17, 2022. Two judges appointed by Trump were part of a three-judge appeals court panel that on Wednesday unanimously ruled in favor of allowing classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago to be used in a criminal investigation. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump have agreed to overturn a decision blocking the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using documents seized during the Mar-a-Lago raid in a criminal investigation.

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, also a Trump appointee, previously issued a ruling appointing a special master to review documents taken during the raid and temporarily preventing documents marked "classified" being used in the DOJ's probe.

On Wednesday, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously ruled to reverse elements of Cannon's decision, taking the classified documents out of the special master's purview and allowing the documents to again be used by the DOJ.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit was made by circuit judges Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant—both of whom were appointed by Trump. The third judge on the panel, Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum, was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

In the ruling, the judges agreed that it was "self-evident" that "the public has a strong interest" in allowing authorities to determine whether Trump had jeopardized national security by potentially illegally retaining the documents.

Trump has claimed that he declassified all of the documents before taking them back to his South Florida home after leaving office in January 2021, although no credible evidence has been presented to verify the claim.

The judges found the former president's claim unpersuasive in their ruling on Wednesday, while also describing the issue of whether the documents had been declassified as a "red herring."

"The record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified," the judges wrote. "In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal."

"So even if we assumed that [Trump] did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them," they continued.

The ruling came on the same day that New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a $250 million civil fraud lawsuit against Trump, three of his children and two former Trump Organization executives. The DOJ's investigation is unrelated.

While the special master appointed to review the documents, Judge Raymond Dearie, will no longer have jurisdiction over the documents marked classified, he will continue to review about 11,000 additional documents.

Trump's legal team requested Dearie be appointed as the special master, a move that multiple legal experts have since suggested has backfired on the former president.

Dearie blasted Trump's legal team during a court hearing on Tuesday, telling them they cannot "have your cake and eat it too" while they resisted his demands to back up the former president's declassification claim.

Newsweek has reached out to Trump's office for comment.