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Appeals court grills Trump lawyers over need for special master

Nov. 22 (UPI) — A panel of three federal judges grilled lawyers for former president Donald Trump on Tuesday over why they believe it was necessary to appoint a special master to review documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

Judges from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for 36 minutes Tuesday afternoon.

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The panel did not issue a ruling Tuesday, but comments from the three judges — all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents — seemed at odds with Trump’s lawyers.

“Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this [case] is indistinguishable,” Circuit Judge William Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee, told Trump lawyer James Trusty.

“Do you think that ‘raid’ is the right term for execution of a warrant?” Judge Elizabeth Cagle Grant asked Trusty, who had referred to an FBI “raid” on Mar-a-Lago. Grant was appointed to the court by Trump.

In August, FBI agents served a warrant at Trump’s Florida home, retrieving thousands of documents from a storage room. Justice Department investigators argued some 300 of those documents were marked as classified and should never have been removed from the White House.

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In September, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted a request to appoint a special master to oversee to review the documents in response to the ex-president’s suggestion that the FBI planted evidence during its search.

Cannon appointed U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie to act as special master.

The Justice Department appealed that appointment in October in front of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The department criticized Cannon’s rulings and argued that she had no authority to interfere with its criminal investigation.

Tuesday’s oral arguments in front of the same court suggests the judges may agree with the Justice Department’s assertion that Cannon overstepped her bounds. It is arguing to have Dearie removed from the case.

The Supreme Court in October rejected Trump’s request to have a special master review the classified papers that were seized to determine which are fair game for investigators to review.

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