A coalition of 11 Republican attorneys general filed a court brief in support of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to have a court-appointed arbitrator sift through hundreds of classified documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago compound last month.
The group, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), lambasted the Biden administration for what it called an “unprecedented nine-hour” search, accusing the Department of Justice of “gamesmanship and other questionable conduct.” The agency carried out a search of Trump’s Florida residence last month, seizing classified documents that reportedly held some of the nation’s greatest secrets, including information on foreign powers’ nuclear capabilities. The ex-president took the documents with him when he left the White House.
Such efforts, the Republican states argue, cloud the Biden administration’s “assertions of good-faith, neutrality and objectivity.”
“In the light of the extraordinary circumstance of a presidential administration ransacking the home of its one-time — and possibly future — political rival, President Trump filed a motion to appoint a special master,” the friend of the court brief reads. “Throughout this litigation the Biden Administration has attempted to trade on the reputation of the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community to thwart the appointment of a neutral special master. But the district court twice rejected that gambit, and this Court should too.”
The brief, filed with the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, is signed by the attorneys general from Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
Politico’s Kyle Cheney noted every state but Kentucky signed on to Texas’ effort to overturn the 2020 election at the Supreme Court. (That case was ultimately thrown out.)
Trump is embroiled in a legal struggle over the highly sensitive documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence more than 18 months after he left the White House. The DOJ is investigating if the former president or his aides engaged in any impropriety or intentionally withheld documents from government investigators.
Trump, who has blasted the search as a political attack, filed suit to have a court appoint an outside arbiter known as a special master to own the material for any documents protected by attorney-client or executive privilege ― even though he is no longer a member of the executive branch.
In a ruling earlier this month that shocked legal experts, a federal judge appointed in 2020 approved that request and paused the DOJ’s investigation into the documents.
The DOJ appealed that decision, but has since said it would not block the appointment of the special master. Rather, the agency asked an appeals court last week to give the FBI access to some 100 of the most sensitive documents taken from Mar-a-Lago rather than see them go through the vetting process. Nearly 11,000 others would still go before the arbiter.
“Although the government believes the district court fundamentally erred in appointing a special master and granting injunctive relief, the government seeks to stay only the portions of the order causing the most serious and immediate harm to the government and the public,” lawyers for the Justice Department wrote in the filing.
Trump’s latest filing with the appeals court argues the DOJ has not proven the documents it seeks are “in fact, classified.” A judge is set to hear preliminary information on the matter on Tuesday.