Appeals Court Frees Justice Dept. to Use Sensitive Files Seized From Trump

A federal judge had temporarily barred the department from using the records marked as classified in its inquiry into whether the former president illegally retained national defense documents.

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Wednesday freed the Justice Department to resume using documents marked as classified that were seized from former President Donald J. Trump, blocking for now a lower court’s order that had strictly limited the investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of government materials.

In a strongly worded 29-page decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an order by a Florida federal judge that has kept the department from using about 100 files with classification markings in its inquiry into whether Mr. Trump illegally retained national defense documents and obstructed repeated efforts to recover them.

The appeals court also agreed with the Justice Department that Mr. Trump’s lawyers — and an independent arbiter recently appointed to review the seized materials — need not look at the classified documents that the F.B.I. carted away from Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Aug. 8.

The Justice Department “argues that the district court likely erred in exercising its jurisdiction to enjoin the United States’ use of the classified records in its criminal investigation and to require the United States to submit the marked classified documents to a special master for review,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. “We agree.”

The decision by the Atlanta-based court was a repudiation of the decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, to broadly intervene in the Justice Department’s investigation. The appellate ruling will permit the arbiter, known as a special master, to review most of the more than 11,000 files seized from Mar-a-Lago, but allow prosecutors unfettered access to the smaller batch of classified records.

The appellate panel consisted of two other Trump appointees, Judges Britt Grant and Andrew L. Brasher, and Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum, an Obama appointee.

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