Posts

Why Trump’s Lawyer, Evan Corcoran, Says Joe Biden Couldn’t Violate 18 USC 1924

My Twitter feed continues to be inundated by a bunch of experts on the latest talking point telling me why Joe Biden violated the law.

He may have. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the documents found at his home. Based on what we know, it’s far less likely that Biden broke the law than Trump. But we don’t know.

Virtually all those parroting the latest talking point are misunderstanding the likely law in question — 18 USC 793e, the same law in question with Trump — and how classification works with a former President or Vice President.

Maybe I’ll get into that at more length in days ahead, but for now, I wanted to lay out what Trump, in the voice of his lawyer Evan Corcoran, says about whether Biden could be charged.

Corcoran addressed many of the questions my Twitter experts have shared in a letter sent to Jay Bratt, DOJ’s head of counterintelligence, last May.

First, Trump — in the voice of Corcoran — says if a former President (a Vice President is also a Constitutional Officer) has voluntarily returned documents to the Archives, there should be no leaks about it.

There have been public reports about an investigation by DOJ into Presidential Records purportedly marked as classified among materials that were once in the White House and unknowingly included among the boxes brought to Mar-a-Lago by the movers. It is important to emphasize that when a request was made for the documents by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), President Trump readily and voluntarily agreed to their transfer to NARA. The communications regarding the transfer of boxes to NARA were friendly, open, and straightforward. President Trump voluntarily ordered that the boxes be provided to NARA. No legal objection was asserted about the transfer. No concerns were raised about the contents of the boxes. It was a voluntary and open process. Unfortunately, the good faith demonstrated by President Trump was not matched once the boxes arrived at NARA. Leaks followed. And, once DOJ got involved, the leaks continued. Leaks about any investigation are concerning. Leaks about an investigation that involve the residence of a former President who is still active on the national political scene are particularly troubling.

So Trump, in the voice of Corcoran, should be outraged that CBS broke this story before the White House or Attorney General revealed it.

Corcoran says that those vested with constitutionally-based authority to classify and declassify documents have unfettered authority to declassify documents, an argument that Trump still pretends he hasn’t waived both before at least three courts, SDFL, the 11th Circuit, and SCOTUS.

(1) A President Has Absolute Authority To Declassify Documents.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the President is vested with the highest level of authority when it comes to the classification and declassification of documents. See U.S. Const., Art. II, § 2 (“The President [is] Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States[.]”). His constitutionally-based authority regarding the classification and declassification of documents is unfettered. See Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 527 (1988) (“[The President’s] authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security … flows primarily from this constitutional investment of power in the President and exists quite apart from any explicit congressional grant.”).

Now, in reality, the authority of the President is not entirely unfettered. As we discussed last fall, nuclear documents require additional people to declassify.

But here’s the thing: There’s good reason to believe that the Vice President has the same authority to declassify documents that the President does.

To the extent that classification is constitutionally tied to Article II authority, it is governed by Executive Order. The Executive Order that governed classification for the entirety of the Trump Administration, and still governs classification, treats the Vice President on par with the President. The EO that governs classified information gives the Vice President the same original classification authority it gives the President, which is where the authority to declassify comes from.

(a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1) the President and the Vice President;

The language on post-tenure access (which Trump later invoked in arguments before the 11th Circuit) also applies to the Vice President in the same way as the President.

(a) The requirement in section 4.1(a)(3) of this order that access to classified information may be granted only to individuals who have a need-to-know the information may be waived for persons who:

[snip]

(3) served as President or Vice President.

(b) Waivers under this section may be granted only if the agency head or senior agency official of the originating agency:

(1) determines in writing that access is consistent with the interest of the national security;
(2) takes appropriate steps to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure or compromise, and ensures that the information is safeguarded in a manner consistent with this order; and
(3) limits the access granted to former Presidential appointees or designees and Vice Presidential appointees or designees to items that the person originated, reviewed, signed, or received while serving as a Presidential or Vice Presidential appointee or designee.

Biden could access stuff from when he was Vice President, but he’d have to do so at the Archives and get a waiver first (a waiver that Biden had after his term but Trump, because of a decision by Biden, did not).

Now, to be clear, none of this has been tested. Much of this language is a legacy of changes in a prior EO that Dick Cheney oversaw in March 2003, which were key in the Valerie Plame investigation.

Some of that is covered in this post I did in 2017, in which I asserted that Mike Pence had declassification authority.

But the fact of the matter is that Joe Biden could say, if he were ever charged, that his understanding is that his authority to classify and declassify as Vice President was the same as the President’s, and over the entire four years of the Trump Administration, Trump did nothing with his unfettered authority to change that (nor has Biden since).

In reality, Trump didn’t declassify these documents, nor did Biden. Trump has now waived his opportunity to claim he declassified these documents legally repeatedly. (Biden could have legally declassified them when he found them; instead he returned them to the Archives.)

But there’s good reason to believe that Corcoran’s arguments about Trump — for the little they’re worth — would apply equally to Biden as to Trump, thanks, in part, to Dick Cheney.

How about them apples, huh?

By far the most interesting argument Corcoran makes, though, is that the statute that most Twitter experts think is at issue, 18 USC 1924, cannot apply to the President, because the President — like the Vice President — is not an “officer” appointed by the President.

(2) Presidential Actions Involving Classified Documents Are Not Subject To Criminal Sanction.

Any attempt to impose criminal liability on a President or former President that involves his actions with respect to documents marked classified would implicate grave constitutional separation-of-powers issues. Beyond that, the primary criminal statute that governs the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material does not apply to the President. That statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both. 18 U.S.C. § 1924(a).

An element of this offense, which the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the accused is “an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States.” The President is none of these. See Free Enter. Fund v. Pub. Co. Acct. Oversight Bd., 561 U.S. 477, 497-98 (2010) (citing U.S. Const., Art. II,§ 2, cl. 2) (“The people do not vote for the ‘Officers of the United States.”‘); see also Melcher v. Fed. Open Mkt. Comm., 644 F. Supp. 510, 518-19 (D.D.C. 1986), aff’d, 836 F.2d 561 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (“[a]n officer of the United States can only be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or by a court of law, or the head of a department. A person who does not derive his position from one of these sources is not an officer of the United States in the sense of the Constitution.”). Thus, the statute does not apply to acts by a President. [my emphasis]

Corcoran made what could be a grave error with this legal analysis, which I’ll get to, but it’s not necessarily in his read about Constitutional officers.

In fact, DOJ seems to agree with Corcoran that Trump’s actions — taking classified documents home at the end of his term and keeping them — are not covered by this law. It was not among the crimes for which they had demonstrated probable cause on Trump’s search warrant affidavit.

It may be DOJ believes that because they agree with Corcoran, that Constitutional Officers who are elected directly by voters are not subject to this law.

It may also be that they believe that because it is routine for Presidents and Vice Presidents, when leaving office, to remove their papers from their official residences and offices and then sort through the stuff they have to send to the Archives. A CNN report describes that Biden, like Trump, didn’t wrap up his office until the last minute (though for different reasons — Trump didn’t because he was still trying to cling to power, whereas Biden didn’t because he was still working). The result was the same, though: the process was rushed and disorderly.

That is, it is possible that the removal of documents at the end of an Administration is not, per se, considered criminal because of how White Houses transition.

Whatever it is, there is nothing about the known fact set about Biden that would make this law apply to Biden if it did not with Trump. Both are believed to have retained stuff they took with them when they left their offices in a hurry.

If 18 USC 1924 cannot apply to Trump, like Evan Corcoran said, then it cannot apply to Biden.

I said, above, that Corcoran may have made a grave error in his analysis. That’s because he didn’t consider whether 18 USC 793, the law we know is under investigation, could apply to a former President (or Vice President). And that appears to have led him to give Trump really bad advice, allowing him to refuse to give back classified documents when asked.

That is a crime.

Taking classified documents unknowingly is probably not a crime, especially for a President or Vice President. Refusing to give them back may well be. That’s the question before Jack Smith, as well as the obstruction question. That’s probably the question before Robert Hur.

How about them apples, huh?

There’s one more interesting thing Corcoran said in his letter. He demanded that DOJ adhere to the White House contact policies that were routinely violated under the Trump Administration.

(3) DOJ Must Be Insulated From Political Influence. According to the Inspector General of DOJ, one of the top challenges facing the Department is the public perception that DOJ is influenced by politics. The report found that “[o]ne important strategy that can build public trust in the Department is to ensure adherence to policies and procedures designed to protect DOJ from accusations of political influence or partial application of the law.” See https://oig.justice.gov/reports/top-management-and-performance-challengesfacing-depatiment-justice-2021 (last visited May 25, 2022). We request that DOJ adhere to longstanding policies and procedures regarding communications between DOJ and the White House regarding pending investigative matters which are designed to prevent political influence in DOJ decision-making.

He’s not wrong that those contact policies should be upheld. And whatever else you think about Merrick Garland’s decision to appoint for John Lausch and then Robert Hur to investigate this, the necessity to uphold contact policies, to which Garland has (as far as is public) adhered to rigorously, is a really good reason to appoint a Special Counsel (and, for that matter, for the White House to be very reserved about its public comments). Trump’s favorite way of violating the contact policy was to Tweet something that would, fairly routinely, be followed almost immediately by DOJ taking action, including on criminal cases (most notably with Roger Stone’s).

Indeed, Biden’s people have said that one reason they have not issued more public comments was in an attempt to avoid even appearing to influence the process.

They should revert to that stance, in my opinion, and point to Evan Corcoran’s letter as authority to do so.

Evan Corcoran said a lot of things. He’s not a national security expert though, so if I were Biden, I wouldn’t rely on it.

But we should be able to rely on his argument that Trump doesn’t think that Biden should be charged, at least not with 18 USC 1924.

11th Circuit to Trump: You’re Not Special

The 11th Circuit has, as expected, vacated Aileen Cannon’s order enjoining the government from investigating Donald Trump, remanding it with an order to dismiss the suit. (Though they gave Trump seven days to appeal before the order goes into effect.)

The opinion’s key point is that, were they to rule for Trump, it would create an impossible precedent, either halting much pre-indictment access to seized material, or creating an exception only for former Presidents.

In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.

[snip]

The law is clear. 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. Either approach would be  a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations. Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.

Much of the opinion is an Richey analysis–the analysis Cannon worked so hard to manufacture. It’s not all that interesting. The key point is that, as Jay Bratt told Judge Cannon on August 30, the precedent in the circuit is clear.

But in conducting a Richey analysis, which it ultimately called a “sideshow,” the opinion took repeated swipes at the efforts Cannon went to make shit up to benefit Trump.

The district court was undeterred by this lack of information. It said that “based on the volume and nature of the seized material, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff has an interest in and need for at least a portion of it,” though it cited only the government’s filings and not Plaintiff’s. But that is not enough. Courts that have authorized equitable jurisdiction have emphasized the importance of identifying “specific” documents and explaining the harm from their “seizure and retention.” See, e.g., Harbor Healthcare Sys., L.P. v. United States, 5 F.4th 593, 600 (5th Cir. 2021) (Harbor did “far more than assert vague allegations” by pointing to “thousands” of privileged documents that the government retained for four years). Neither the district court nor Plaintiff has offered such specifics.

The opinion was even more scathing, though, in dismissing the notion that leaking classified information would harm Trump.

Plaintiff has adopted two of the district court’s arguments, dedicating a single page of his brief to discussing the first and third theories of harm. On the first argument, Plaintiff echoes the district court and asserts that he faces an “unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public.” It is not clear whether Plaintiff and the district court mean classified information or information that is sensitive to Plaintiff personally. If the former, permitting the United States to review classified documents does not suggest that they will be released. Any official who makes an improper disclosure of classified material risks her own criminal liability. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 798. What’s more, any leak of classified material would be properly characterized as a harm to the United States and its citizens—not as a personal injury to Plaintiff.

The only thing specific to Trump’s status as an ex-President, besides the opinion’s repeated reminder that he is not special, is the way with which the opinion twice dismissed Trump’s claim that if he had designated these documents his personal property under the Presidential Records Act, it would allow him to keep it. That’s nonsense, of course, because warrants authorize the seizure of personal property as a general rule.

Indeed, Plaintiff does not press the district court’s theory on appeal. Instead, he argues that the Presidential Records Act gives him a possessory interest in the seized documents. This argument is unresponsive. Even if Plaintiff’s statutory interpretation were correct (a proposition that we neither consider nor endorse), personal interest in or ownership of a seized document is not synonymous with the need for its return.3 In most search warrants, the government seizes property that unambiguously belongs to the subject of a search. That cannot be enough to support equitable jurisdiction.

[snip]

Plaintiff’s alternative framing of his grievance is that he needs a special master and an injunction to protect documents that he designated as personal under the Presidential Records Act. But as we have said, the status of a document as personal or presidential does not alter the authority of the government to seize it under a warrant supported by probable cause; search warrants authorize the seizure of personal records as a matter of course. The Department of Justice has the documents because they were seized with a search warrant, not because of their status under the Presidential Records Act.

3 During discussion of this factor at oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel noted that the seized items included “golf shirts” and “pictures of Celine Dion.” The government concedes that Plaintiff “may have a property interest in his personal effects.” While Plaintiff may have an interest in these items and others like them, we do not see the need for their immediate return after seizure under a presumptively lawful search warrant.

Here, Jim Trusty’s wails about Celine Dion really served to demonstrate how absurd the grievance was. Ultimately, Trump’s Celine Dion picture was not a sufficiently urgent piece of property to hold up a search warrant.

A very conservative panel, including two Trump appointees, just confirmed that he’s not special anymore.

Devlin Barrett’s “People Familiar with the Matter”

As Devlin Barrett’s sources would have it, a man whose business ties to the Saudis include a $2 billion investment in his son-in-law, a golf partnership of undisclosed value, and a new hotel development in Oman would have no business interest in stealing highly sensitive documents describing Iran’s missile systems.

I’ll let you decide whether the claim, made in Barrett’s latest report on the stolen documents case, means the FBI is considering the issue very narrowly or Barrett’s sources are bullshitting him.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Barrett has a history of credulously repeating what right wing FBI agents feed him for their own political goals, which means it’s unclear how seriously to take this report. Particularly given several critical details Barrett’s story does not mention:

  • Trump’s efforts, orchestrated in part by investigation witness Kash Patel, to release documents about the Russian investigation specifically to serve a political objective
  • The report, from multiple outlets, that Jay Bratt told Trump’s lawyers that DOJ believes Trump still has classified documents
  • Details about classified documents interspersed with a Roger Stone grant of clemency and messages — dated after Trump left the White House — from a pollster, a book author, and a religious leader; both sets of interspersed classified documents were found in Trump’s office
  • The way Trump’s legal exposure would expand if people like Boris Epshteyn conspired to help him hoard the documents or others like Molly Michael accessed the classified records

To be sure: I think a good many of the documents Trump stole — including the most sensitive ones — were stolen as trophies. We know that’s why Trump stole his love letters with Kim Jong Un. And the visible contents of the FBI’s search photograph show that the most highly classified documents were stored along with Time Magazine covers.

But this report, from sources described as “people familiar with the matter,” bespeaks a partial view of the investigation, one Barrett hasn’t bothered to supplement (or challenge) with public records.

That description, “people familiar with the matter,” is the same one Barrett uses to remind readers that he got the scoop on the Iranian missile documents that his sources don’t think the Saudis would have any interest in, and his scoop that Trump stole documents about some country’s defense system (which, if the country is Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel, would be of acute interest to Trump’s golf partners, too).

The Washington Post has previously reported that among the most sensitive classified documents recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago were documents about Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said. The Post has also reported that some of the material focuses on the defense systems of a foreign country, including its nuclear capabilities.

There’s no guarantee that these “people familiar with the matter” are the same sources for both the information about the most sensitive documents Trump stole and the current understanding about Trump’s motive. It could be that Barrett is using the same vague description to protect his source(s).

But they could be the same sources. Indeed, the blind spots in Barrett’s reporting may stem from having sources familiar with the national security review of the documents, but not necessarily the ongoing investigation into it. Some of the WaPo’s past reporting on this story seems to come from people who’ve seen the unredacted affidavit, but not necessarily the investigative files.

And that’s interesting, among other reasons, because the leak to Barrett about the most sensitive documents has formed the primary harm claimed by Trump’s lawyers in filing after filing after filing, starting literally the day after Judge Aileen Cannon cited leaks in her original order enjoining the criminal investigation.

The Government is apparently not concerned with unauthorized leaks regarding the contents of the purported “classified records,” see, e.g., Devlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonnig, Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mara-Lago, WASH. POST (Sept. 6, 2022), https://www.washingtonpost.com/nationalsecurity/2022/09/06/trump-nuclear-documents/, and would presumably be prepared to share all such records publicly in any future jury trial. However, the Government advances the untenable position in its Motion that the secure review by a Court appointed and supervised special master under controlled access conditions is somehow problematic and poses a risk to national security.

Trump cites Barrett’s work right alongside EO 13526 as “Other Authorities” central to Trump’s argument:

In any case, given the precedent of Nghia Pho (which may still be the only 18 USC 793 case cited by DOJ in this proceeding), it may not matter if Trump stole all or only some of these documents because he’s a narcissist. Trump brought a stack of classified documents to a foreign intelligence target and left them unprotected as multiple suspect foreigners infiltrated his resort. He continued to hoard such documents even after it was publicly reported that he had brought classified documents home.

During Trump’s Administration two men were sent to prison because, by bringing highly classified documents home for motives that had nothing to do with leaking, they made the documents accessible to Russian-linked sources, actions that ultimately led to a devastating compromise of US intelligence resources. Under Donald Trump’s DOJ, Pho and Hal Martin were not given a pass because they were serving their own ego.

So there’s no reason Trump’s narcissism, alone, should be a basis not to charge him.

On August 8, There Were at Least 73 Items Where the FBI Had Seen 50-55 Boxes on June 3

There’s a propensity when reporting on an FBI investigation to believe that things being reported by the press as new news that the FBI doesn’t know about. We don’t know what the FBI doesn’t know, and so if it’s new to us, there’s a propensity to believe it’s new to people who have the advantage of subpoena power.

But I’d like to point to details that have long been public that suggest the FBI knew boxes had been moved out of Trump’s storage room in advance of Jay Bratt’s glimpse at it on June 3.

On May 6, 2021, NARA General Counsel Gary Stern told Pat Philbin that he understood Trump had taken 24 boxes of documents to Mar-a-Lago.

It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original Presidential records were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President Trump’s last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the Administration that they need to be. I had also raised this concern with Scott during the final weeks.

Side note: This email was before a bunch of boxes, potentially other boxes, were moved from a Virginia storage facility to Mar-a-Lago.

In any case, when Trump returned 15 boxes of documents in January 2022, NARA (and so the FBI) would have known there were at least 9 boxes missing.

On June 3, 2022, Jay Bratt and three FBI agents went to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve — they were told — the balance of the documents Trump stole. They were handed not 9 boxes, but a folder.

They were also shown the storage room where Trump had been storing some of his stolen documents. Here’s part of how the FBI described the room in the August 5 affidavit to search Trump’s beach resort:

The agents and DOJ COUNSEL were permitted to see the STORAGE ROOM and observed that approximately fifty to fifty-five boxes remained in the STORAGE ROOM. [five lines redacted] Other items were also present in the STORAGE ROOM, including a coat rack with suit jackets, as well as interior decor items such as wall art and frames.

In the same affidavit, the FBI said Trump’s residential suite, Pine Hall — which must have been discussed in the prior seven mostly-redacted paragraphs — was one of the places Trump may have stored the still-missing classified records.

When the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8, they used A-labels for all the items of investigative interest found in what has since been confirmed as the storage closet (see this post for pictures of how this looks in practice, from the search of Josh Schulte’s apartment in 2017). The series goes up through at least 73.

While it’s possible the FBI found Trump’s coat rack to be of investigative interest, it’s far more likely that the labeled items were all boxes, because the FBI wasn’t authorized to seize coat racks.

So on June 3, four witnesses, several highly-trained, estimated or counted 50 to 55 boxes in the storage room.

On August 8, there were at least 73 items of investigative interest — probably boxes — in the storage room.

Boris Epshteyn Enters the Three-Person Chat

Yesterday, both NBC and the Guardian reported that Christina Bobb was interviewed by investigators last Friday. The stories describe that her testimony confirms what we already knew, generally: Evan Corcoran did the search and wrote the declaration but Bobb signed it. Here’s NBC.

Bobb, who was Trump’s custodian of record at the time, did not draft the statement, according to the three sources who do not want to comment publicly because of the sensitive nature of the sprawling federal investigation.

Instead, Trump’s lead lawyer in the case at the time, Evan Corcoran, drafted it and told her to sign it, Bobb told investigators according to the sources.

[snip]

Before Bobb signed the document, she insisted it be rewritten with a disclaimer that said she was certifying Trump had no more records “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” the sources said of what she told investigators. Bobb identified the person who gave her that “information” as Corcoran, the sources said.

“She had to insist on that disclaimer twice before she signed it,” said one source who spoke with Bobb about what she told investigators.

The source said she spoke freely without an immunity deal.

“She is not criminally liable,” the source said. “She is not going to be charged. She is not pointing fingers. She is simply a witness for the truth.”

[snip]

“People made [Bobb] the fall guy — or fall gal, for what it’s worth — and it’s wrong,” the source said. “Yes, she signed the declaration. No one disputes that. But what she signed is technically accurate. … The people who told her to sign it should know better.” [my emphasis]

In addition to describing that Corcoran did the search, the Guardian corrects a point NBC made: Bobb wasn’t, actually, the custodian of records, which makes the decision to have her sign the declaration all the more suspect.

The certification was drafted by Corcoran, who also searched Mar-a-Lago for documents demanded by the subpoena, and sent it to Bobb before the justice department’s counterintelligence chief, Jay Bratt, arrived on 3 June to collect a folder of responsive records, the sources said.

[snip]

It was not clear why Bobb was willing to sign the declaration – as required by the subpoena in lieu of testimony – as the “custodian of records” when she never fulfilled such a role, the sources said, and appeared to know there was risk in attesting to a search she had not completed.

It is common for people friendly to a criminal suspect to immediately tell the press what they told investigators, so these stories are unsurprising.

They’re interesting in their form, however.

First, normally these stories are based on someone’s lawyer quietly telling the press the substance of her interview (which, because Bobb testified to investigators, not the grand jury, her competent attorney would have attended and taken notes). Here, Guardian seems to explicitly rule out Bobb’s attorney (though not, perhaps, someone who is not specifically the “criminal defense attorney”).

Bobb and her criminal defense attorney also did not respond to requests for comment, though Bobb has told associates since the FBI’s search of the property on 8 August that the certification she signed was truthful, the sources said.

NBC doesn’t rule that out.

Represented by Tampa attorney John Lauro, Bobb gave her testimony Friday in Washington and spoke to federal investigators, not the grand jury investigating Trump, the source with knowledge of her testimony said.

Regardless of whether someone close to John Lauro was one source for this story, at least two more people, aside from the typical lawyer source that would be all such stories normally require, have knowledge and are blabbing to the press. It’s totally okay for a lawyer to share this, but having three different people share knowledge of the interview means Bobb has shared details with people who are not her lawyer — something that sounds more like witnesses comparing stories.

The entire point of going to the press, after all, is it’s a way to share details without directly sharing details with other potential witnesses. These stories almost make it sound like people spent the weekend comparing notes.

More interestingly, this effort to share her testimony includes, in each story, that investigators asked about Boris Epshteyn, whose phone the FBI happens to have seized last month based off what is believed to be a January 6 warrant.

Bobb also spoke to investigators about Trump legal adviser Boris Epshteyn, who she said did not help draft the statement but was minimally involved in discussions about the records, according to the sources.

Epshteyn’s cellphone was seized last month by the FBI, according to a New York Times report, citing sources familiar with the matter. Two sources confirmed to NBC News that his phone was seized.

Since the phone was seized, more stories (including both of these) have started claiming Epshteyn played some kind of legal role in Trump’s entourage. That’s a bit nutty, because for six years of association with Trump, Epshteyn has served as a propagandist and a political organizer, not a lawyer.  But these stories and a few recent ones are labeling him as a counsel even as Bobb, who claims to be a Trump lawyer but not on this topic, proves one can be a JD and not be acting as an attorney at any given time. For whatever reason, we’ve heard nary a peep about privilege claims from Epshteyn regarding the earlier seizure, but these stories, at least, seem to want to retroactively claim this stuff involves a privilege claim.

Bobb’s testimony will clarify for DOJ, I guess, about how broadly they need to get Beryl Howell to scope the crime-fraud exception.

All that’s just tea leaves about how to read these kinds of stories.

The piece of news, however, is that DOJ appears to have gotten Bobb to specify precisely what caveat she demanded in the statement, which reads as follows:

I hereby certify as follows:

1. I have been designated to serve as Custodian of Records for The Office of Donald J. Trump, for purposes of the testimony and documents subject to subpoena #GJ20222042790054.

2. I understand that this certification is made to comply with the subpoena, in lieu of a personal appearance and testimony.

3. Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following:

a. A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida;

b. This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena;

c. Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification; and d. No copy, written notation, or reproduction of any kind was retained as to any responsive document.

I swear or affirm that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge. [both emphases mine]

Both stories appear to confirm that Bobb insisted on the bolded language limiting the declaration to the “information that [was] provided to [her].” That suggests she’s not the one (I had mistakenly suspected) — and she just told DOJ she’s not the one — who included the language limiting the declaration to documents moved from the White House to Florida.

The subpoena didn’t ask for all records bearing classification marks that got moved from the White House to Florida. The subpoena asked for, “Any and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings.” The letter Jay Bratt sent to Evan Corcoran specifically envisioned custodians of record all over the country going to their local FBI office to drop documents off.

the custodian may comply with the subpoena by providing any responsive documents to the FBI at the place of their location

That caveat — limiting the declaration just to those documents in Florida — was an even more damning caveat than the one Bobb insisted on. The one Bobb insisted on was just testament to the obvious refusal by anyone with personal knowledge of the search to sign a declaration affirming its diligence. It was basically a big flag saying, “This declaration is toilet paper!!”

But the caveat limiting the declaration to just the documents in Florida is a different flag, one saying, “There are documents in other states!!!”

And that caveat was written not by someone ignorant of the whole scam, like Bobb says she was, but by someone who at least believed there was a good chance there were documents in other states.

On Thursday, the day before Bobb’s interview, outlets started reporting that Jay Bratt had told Trump’s people that they suspected he still had more documents. NYT’s version of that describes that as the source of tension between Evan Corcoran and Jim Trusty on one hand, and Chris Kise, on the other.

The outreach from the department prompted a rift among Mr. Trump’s lawyers about how to respond, with one camp counseling a cooperative approach that would include bringing in an outside firm to conduct a further search for documents and another advising Mr. Trump to maintain a more combative posture.

The more combative camp, the people briefed on the matter said, won out.

[snip]

After the call from Mr. Bratt, who has led the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents, Mr. Trump initially agreed to go along with the advice of one of his lawyers, Christopher M. Kise, who suggested hiring a forensic firm to search for additional documents, according to the people briefed on the matter.

But other lawyers in Mr. Trump’s circle — who have argued for taking a more adversarial posture in dealing with the Justice Department — disagreed with Mr. Kise’s approach. They talked Mr. Trump out of the idea and have encouraged him to maintain an aggressive stance toward the authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg’s version of this story describes that Trump’s lawyers are worried DOJ will require more declarations, which might be a trap!

But the department’s communications have generated doubt and debate for Trump’s lawyers about whether the department actually knows documents are missing and wants the lawyers to make written declarations in response. Some of Trump’s lawyers apparently view that as a potential trap that could land them in legal jeopardy, further exacerbating tensions on Trump’s team.

Based off Bobb’s testimony on Friday — which Bobb seemed to have been inviting for weeks — DOJ may have already set that trap.

Update: In a piece suggesting, without evidence, that Bobb is a subject in this investigation, not a witness, NYT provides more detail of Epshteyn’s role.

Trump lawyer, Boris Epshteyn, contacted her the night before she signed the attestation and connected her with Mr. Corcoran. Ms. Bobb, who was living in Florida, was told that she needed to go to Mar-a-Lago the next day to deal with an unspecified legal matter for Mr. Trump.

Aileen Cannon Deliberately Harmed Trump To Create an Excuse to Help Him

On September 5, Judge Aileen Cannon ruled that depriving Donald Trump of personal items constituted “real harm.”

being deprived of potentially significant personal documents [] creates a real harm

Yesterday, the newly unsealed filter team status report revealed that, for two weeks, Judge Cannon deliberately inflicted that harm on Trump.

That’s because on August 30, DOJ’s filter team told her that they wanted to return the original copies of documents designated as Category B — 43 sets of documents amounting to 382 pages of documents — to Trump.

[T]he PrivilegeReview Team proposes to return the originals and provide a Bates-stamped control copy to the Plaintiff. Many of these materials do not appear to be privileged (although one appears to be.11), but they are all either legal in nature (e.g.,settlement, non-disclosure, and retainer agreements) or otherwise potentially sensitive, and they do not appear to be themselves government or Presidential Records or classified documents.

These documents were lawfully seized: many were likely in the desk drawer in which Trump also had a document marked Confidential and another document marked Secret. The others would have been seized from the storage closet where Trump was hiding 79 documents with classification markings. But on August 30, DOJ proposed to Aileen Cannon that they give them back.

Then, the next day, on September 1, filter attorney Benjamin Hawk asked for permission to pursue “the proposal that we offered,” which, in addition to providing Trump with Bates-stamped copies of all the documents treated as potentially privileged, would also include (per the status report that had been discussed at length in the hearing) giving him the originals back.

MR. HAWK: Your Honor, if I may.

THE COURT: Yes.

MR. HAWK: We would like to seek permission to provide copies — the proposal that we offered, Your Honor, provide copies to counsel of the 64 sets of the materials that are Bates stamped so they have the opportunity to start reviewing. THE COURT: I’m sorry, say that again, please.

MR. HAWK: The privilege review team would have provided Bates stamped copies of the 64 sets of documents to Plaintiff’s counsel. We would like to seek permission from Your Honor to be able to provide those now, not at this exact moment but to move forward to providing those so counsel has the opportunity to review them and understand and have the time to review and do their own analysis of those documents to come to their own conclusions. And if the filter process without a special master were allowed to proceed, we would engage with counsel and have conversations, determine if we can reach agreements; to the extent we couldn’t reach agreements, we would bring those before the Court, whether Your Honor or Judge Reinhart. But simply now, I’m seeking permission just to provide those documents to Plaintiff’s counsel.

THE COURT: All right. I’m going to reserve ruling on that request. I prefer to consider it holistically in the assessment of whether a special master is indeed appropriate for those privileged reviews. I think Mr. Bratt is hoping to get a few more minutes in.

In response to a request to (among other things) give the originals of Trump’s personal documents back, Cannon declined to approve the request. Had she approved it, 382 pages of personal documents would have been back in Trump’s custody right away. He would no longer have been deprived of those potentially significant personal documents. The harm that Cannon said was caused by his deprivation of those documents would be ended.

And that is precisely the harm she cited when she first ruled that a Special Master had to review the documents that she had prevented DOJ from returning to Trump. Indeed, she claimed there was a dispute about the very personal property that DOJ had tried to give back five days earlier.

Although some of the seized items (e.g., articles of clothing) appear to be readily identifiable as personal property, the parties’ submissions suggest the existence of genuine disputes as to (1) whether certain seized documents constitute personal or presidential records, and (2) whether certain seized personal effects have evidentiary value. Because those disputes are bound up with Plaintiff’s Rule 41(g) request and involve issues of fact, the Court “must receive evidence” from the parties thereon. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g) (“The court must receive evidence on any factual issue necessary to decide the motion.”). That step calls for comprehensive review of the seized property.

Review is further warranted, as previewed, for determinations of privilege. The Government forcefully objects, even with respect to attorney-client privilege, pointing out that the Privilege Review Team already has screened the seized property and is prepared to turn over approximately 520 pages of potentially privileged material for court review pursuant to the previously approved ex parte filter protocol [ECF No. 48 p. 14]. In plain terms, the Government’s position is that another round of screening would be “unnecessary” [ECF No. 48 p. 22]. The Court takes a different view on this record.

By that point, she had personally been responsible for depriving Trump of 382 pages of documents for five days.

She would cite back to this passage, claiming a dispute including over documents DOJ had tried to give back, when she refused to stay her injunction on investigating the classified documents.

To further expand the point, and as more fully explained in the September 5 Order, the Government seized a high volume of materials from Plaintiff’s residence on August 8, 2022 [ECF No. 64 p. 4]; some of those materials undisputedly constitute personal property and/or privileged materials [ECF No. 64 p. 13]; the record suggests ongoing factual and legal disputes as to precisely which materials constitute personal property and/or privileged materials [ECF No. 64 p. 14]; and there are documented instances giving rise to concerns about the Government’s ability to properly categorize and screen materials [ECF No. 64 p. 15]. Furthermore, although the Government emphasizes what it perceives to be Plaintiff’s insufficiently particularized showing on various document-specific assertions [ECF No. 69 p. 11; ECF No. 88 pp. 3–7], it remains the case that Plaintiff has not had a meaningful ability to concretize his position with respect to the seized materials given (1) the ex parte nature of the approved filter protocol, (2) the relatively generalized nature of the Government’s “Detailed Property Inventory” [ECF No. 39-1], and (3) Plaintiff’s unsuccessful efforts, pre-suit, to gather more information from the Government about the content of the seized materials [ECF No. 1 pp. 3, 8–9 (describing Plaintiff’s rejected requests to obtain a list of exactly what was taken and from where, to inspect the seized property, and to obtain information regarding potentially privileged documents)]. [my emphasis]

The only dispute here was between Cannon and the government! They had already asked to give Trump’s personal documents back, and she refused to grant permission to do that.

And Cannon pointed to those personal items — items the government had already tried to give back — when she refused to lift her injunction on investigating classified documents.

Again, the September 5 Order imposes a temporary restraint on certain review and use of the seized materials, in natural conjunction with the special master process, only for the period of time required to resolve any categorization disputes and rule on Plaintiff’s Rule 41(g) requests. This restriction is not out of step with the logical approach approved and used for special master review in other cases, often with the consent of the government, and it is warranted here to reinforce the value of the Special Master, to protect against unwarranted disclosure and use of potentially privileged and personal material pending completion of the review process, and to ensure public trust.

[snip]

And the Court remains firmly of the view that appointment of a special master to conduct a review of the seized materials, accompanied by a temporary injunction to avoid unwarranted use and disclosure of potentially privileged and/or personal materials, is fully consonant with the foregoing principles and with the need to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under unprecedented circumstances.

As I have noted, there was just one clearly privileged document among the 11,000 seized on August 8. DOJ had tried to give it, along with some personal documents, back on August 30. Yet that is precisely what Cannon pointed to — the harm that she herself was sustaining — in her justification to hold up an investigation into 103 highly classified documents stored in a beach resort targeted by foreign spies.

She put the entire country at risk because of a harm she herself continued an extra two weeks.

And that’s not the only harm that Judge Cannon inflicted on Trump to justify interfering in this case.

First, we now know that her reference to tax and medical and accounting information was to the Category B documents — the ones that DOJ had already attempted to give back.

According to the Privilege Review Team’s Report, the seized materials include medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information [ECF No. 40-2;

I had mistakenly believed she was relying on the privilege status report — a document which the filter attorneys had said could safely be shared publicly. The status report doesn’t mention those specific documents at all (unless the Morgan Lewis document explicitly referenced accounting). Those references are to still-sealed information.

She’s the leak she claimed threatened Trump’s reputation.

Worse still, it’s now clear those really may be Trump’s personal accounting and tax documents (something that I previously thought was unlikely). If so, Cannon’s reference to that still-sealed information revealed to Tish James that documents potentially responsive to subpoenas — documents that Alina Habba swore did not exist — may soon be found at Mar-a-Lago.

Since she got this lawsuit, Judge Cannon has been doing backflips to try to help Trump. That goes so far as inflicting harm that she then uses to justify intervening.

Cause the Harm, and Then Say Nothing: Trump Has Had Aileen Cannon’s Proof of His Injury for a Week and Said Nothing

As I have repeatedly laid out, to intervene (improperly, the 11th Circuit has ruled) in the search of Trump’s home, Aileen Cannon created an injury, and then intervened to fix it.

When DOJ asked for permission on August 30 to share with Trump the potentially privileged documents separated out by the filter team, she prohibited them from doing so. She wanted to deal with this all “holistically.” Then, in all her subsequent rulings in this case, she pointed to the fact that Trump didn’t have possession or insight into those privileged documents as one of the only harms suffered by the seizure of the documents at his home.

[T]wenty days ago, DOJ asked for permission to share the items they had determined to be potentially privileged with Trump’s lawyers so they could begin to resolve those issues. Twenty days!!

But Cannon prohibited DOJ from doing so, because she wanted to deal with this all “holistically.”

MR. HAWK: We would like to seek permission to provide copies — the proposal that we offered, Your Honor, provide copies to counsel of the 64 sets of the materials that are Bates stamped so they have the opportunity to start reviewing.

THE COURT: I’m sorry, say that again, please.

MR. HAWK: The privilege review team would have provided Bates stamped copies of the 64 sets of documents to Plaintiff’s counsel. We would like to seek permission from Your Honor to be able to provide those now, not at this exact moment but to move forward to providing those so counsel has the opportunity to review them and understand and have the time to review and do their own analysis of those documents to come to their own conclusions. And if the filter process without a special master were allowed to proceed, we would engage with counsel and have conversations, determine if we can reach agreements; to the extent we couldn’t reach agreements, we would bring those before the Court, whether Your Honor or Judge Reinhart. But simply now, I’m seeking permission just to provide those documents to Plaintiff’s counsel.

THE COURT: All right. I’m going to reserve ruling on that request. I prefer to consider it holistically in the assessment of whether a special master is indeed appropriate for those privileged reviews.

In her order denying DOJ’s request for a stay of her injunction (and several times before that), Cannon pointed to precisely these reserved potentially privileged items to find a harm to Trump that she needed to address.

To further expand the point, and as more fully explained in the September 5 Order, the Government seized a high volume of materials from Plaintiff’s residence on August 8, 2022 [ECF No. 64 p. 4]; some of those materials undisputedly constitute personal property and/or privileged materials [ECF No. 64 p. 13]; the record suggests ongoing factual and legal disputes as to precisely which materials constitute personal property and/or privileged materials [ECF No. 64 p. 14]; and there are documented instances giving rise to concerns about the Government’s ability to properly categorize and screen materials [ECF No. 64 p. 15]. Furthermore, although the Government emphasizes what it perceives to be Plaintiff’s insufficiently particularized showing on various document-specific assertions [ECF No. 69 p. 11; ECF No. 88 pp. 3–7], it remains the case that Plaintiff has not had a meaningful ability to concretize his position with respect to the seized materials given (1) the ex parte nature of the approved filter protocol, (2) the relatively generalized nature of the Government’s “Detailed Property Inventory” [ECF No. 39-1], and (3) Plaintiff’s unsuccessful efforts, pre-suit, to gather more information from the Government about the content of the seized materials [ECF No. 1 pp. 3, 8–9 (describing Plaintiff’s rejected requests to obtain a list of exactly what was taken and from where, to inspect the seized property, and to obtain information regarding potentially privileged documents)] [my emphasis]

I’ve written about how Cannon outright invented the claim that the medical and tax records were personal property. Both inventories thus far provided to Trump comply with the law (and, importantly, Custodian of Records Christina Bobb signed the first with no complaint about the accuracy or level of detail, arguably waiving any complaint).

But the single solitary reason why the filter protocol remained unavailable to Trump’s team on September 15, when Cannon wrote this order, is because she prohibited DOJ from sharing it with Trump over two weeks earlier.

Cannon, personally, created the harm, then used that harm to justify her intervention to address it.

On September 16, the day after her order, DOJ repaired that alleged injury. As they explained in their filing before Raymond Dearie, they provided this material to Trump the day after Judge Cannon’s order.

With respect to the Filter Materials, and consistent with the Appointment Order, on September 16, 2022, the Privilege Review Team provided Bates-stamped copies of the Filter Materials, as well as a list of the materials with short descriptions and Bates ranges, to Plaintiff’s Counsel.

Trump has in hand the basis of Cannon’s claim DOJ accessed materials improperly. Trump has in hand the materials pertaining to medical, tax, and accounting matters that formed the basis of Cannon’s claim DOJ had seized personal material. Trump has in hand materials that would reflect DOJ’s filter protocol.

Nevertheless, Trump has said nothing about what’s in those materials.

By the time Trump submitted his proposed topics to Dearie on September 19, Trump had had those documents for at least 48 hours. Nevertheless, he asked for two more weeks to make any privilege determinations over them — until after they had first seen the classified documents.

Plaintiff to create privilege log (with basis) for Exh. A documents

By the time Trump submitted his response to the 11th Circuit, Trump had had at least three days to review that material. Nevertheless, in his response, he still claimed to be uncertain over whether those really were attorney-client privileged.

The material seized from President Trump’s home includes not only “personal effects without evidentiary value” but also approximately five hundred pages of material that is likely subject to attorney-client privilege, as well as medical documents, and tax and accounting information. [my emphasis]

Trump has now had those documents — 64 sets of documents, amounting to 520 pages — for almost a week.

Importantly, since Tuesday, a proposed protective order has been before Judge Cannon, but she has taken no action. Which is to say, for almost a week, Trump has had those potentially privileged documents in hand, without any restrictions from Cannon on whether Trump could speak of them publicly.

Relatedly, Cannon has still not acted on DOJ’s September 8 request that she unseal the filter team’s status report, from which she drew her claim that some of these potentially privileged documents pertained to Trump’s personal medical, tax, and accounting issues, rather than (as I suggested they might pertain to) discussions with government lawyers about legal action pertaining to things like his COVID diagnosis, his challenge to various Mazars subpoenas, and matters pertaining to the Old Post Office building. Cannon has not let the rest of us see out of what discussion she manufactured that harm.

Trump’s lawyers have had access to the filter status report for over three weeks. Trump’s team has had those potentially privileged materials for a week.

And neither Trump nor his lawyers has said anything about the grave harm done by the seizure of those documents.

Trump has had the ability for a week to tell us all about the harm on which Cannon hung her intervention. He even had that material — with no protective order! — when he wailed about his victimhood with Sean Hannity. And he has been silent about the core imagined harm that Cannon used to intervene.

Go to emptywheel resource page on Trump Espionage Investigation.

Granting Stay, 11th Circuit Scolds Aileen Cannon for Ignoring Executive Assertions on National Security

On the same day that NY Attorney General Tish James announced a lawsuit against Trump for his alleged tax cheating and financial fraud, the 11th Circuit granted DOJ a stay of Aileen Cannon’s injunction prohibiting it from using the documents marked as classified in its investigation. But Trump got to go blow smoke to Sean Hannity, so I guess all is not lost.

The opinion was a per curiam opinion written by Trump appointees Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher and Obama appointee Robin Rosenbaum.

Courts don’t question the [current] Executive’s representations about national security

While reserving judgment on the merits question, the opinion was nevertheless fairly scathing about Cannon’s abuse of discretion. Some of this pertained to her jurisdictional analysis (which I’ll return to). But two important implicit admonishments of Cannon’s actions pertain to the deference on national security that courts give to the Executive.

The opinion calls the scheme that Cannon had set up — allowing the Intelligence Community to continue its intelligence assessment but prohibiting any investigation for criminal purposes — untenable. In support, the opinion notes that there’s a sworn declaration from FBI Assistant Director Alan Kohler (the only one in this docket) debunking Cannon’s distinction between national security review and criminal investigation. It notes, twice, that courts must accord great weight to the Executive, including an affidavit. The opinion notes that “no party had offered anything beyond speculation” to undermine this representation.

Returning to the case before us, under the terms of the district court’s injunction, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is permitted to continue its “classification review and/or intelligence assessment” to assess “the potential risk to national security that would result from disclosure of the seized materials.” Doc. No. 64 at 1–2, 6. But the United States is enjoined “from further review and use of any of the materials seized from Plaintiff’s residence on August 8, 2022, for criminal investigative purposes pending resolution of the special master’s review process.” Id. 23–24.

This distinction is untenable. Through Kohler’s declaration, the United States has sufficiently explained how and why its national-security review is inextricably intertwined with its criminal investigation. When matters of national security are involved, we “must accord substantial weight to an agency’s affidavit.” See Broward Bulldog, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 939 F.3d 1164, 1182 (11th Cir. 2019) (quoting Am. Civil Liberties Union v. U.S. Dep’t of Def., 628 F.3d 612, 619 (D.C. Cir. 2011)).

The engrained principle that “courts must exercise the traditional reluctance to intrude upon the authority of the Executive in military and national security affairs” guides our review of the United States’s proffered national-security concerns. United States v. Zubaydah, 142 S. Ct. 959, 967 (2022) (alteration and citation omitted). No party has offered anything beyond speculation to undermine the United States’s representation—supported by sworn testimony—that findings from the criminal investigation may be critical to its national-security review. See Kohler Decl. ¶ 9. According to the United States, the criminal investigation will seek to determine, among other things, the identity of anyone who accessed the classified materials; whether any particular classified materials were compromised; and whether additional classified materials may be unaccounted for. As Plaintiff acknowledges, backwards-looking inquiries are the domain of the criminal investigators. Doc. No. 84 at 15–16. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to answer these critical questions if its criminal investigators are not permitted to review the seized classified materials. [my emphasis]

Two parties — both Trump and Cannon — did speculate wildly that Kohler’s representations were overblown. Which you can’t do in courts of law, the 11th Circuit says. The more important point was that Cannon totally dismissed the Kohler declaration (even while she didn’t require declarations of others) to sustain her own “untenable” injunction.

The opinion lays out at length how classification works, citing sources Trump also relied on (largely EO 13526 and Navy v. Egan) to effectively show the parts of those citations he ignored. In one such passage, it comes pretty close to suggesting all this should be obvious, even to Aileen Cannon.

The United States also argues that allowing the special master and Plaintiff’s counsel to examine the classified records would separately impose irreparable harm. We agree. The Supreme Court has recognized that for reasons “too obvious to call for enlarged discussion, the protection of classified information must be committed to the broad discretion of the agency responsible, and this must include broad discretion to determine who may have access to it.” Egan, 484 U.S. at 529 (quotation omitted). As a result, courts should order review of such materials in only the most extraordinary circumstances. The record does not allow for the conclusion that this is such a circumstance. [my emphasis]

The way courts have expansively interpreted Navy v. Egan to grant the [current] Executive nearly unfettered authority to dictate matters of classification invites abuse (and screws over defendants in Espionage Act cases). But that is what courts have done. That is what precedent demands. And Cannon’s blithe deviation from that precedent deserved this kind of disdain.

Joe Biden gets to decide Trump doesn’t have a Need to Know

In another section, the opinion makes a finding that goes beyond where the dispute before Cannon has gone (but not beyond where the dispute before Special Master Raymond Dearie has). Even former Presidents can only access classified information if they have a Need to Know.

[W]e cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings. Classified documents are marked to show they are classified, for instance, with their classification level. Classified National Security Information, Exec. Order No. 13,526, § 1.6, 3 C.F.R. 298, 301 (2009 Comp.), reprinted in 50 U.S.C. § 3161 app. at 290–301. They are “owned by, produced by or for, or . . . under the control of the United States Government.” Id. § 1.1. And they include information the “unauthorized disclosure [of which] could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.” Id. § 1.4. For this reason, a person may have access to classified information only if, among other requirements, he “has a need-to-know the information.” Id. § 4.1(a)(3). This requirement pertains equally to former Presidents, unless the current administration, in its discretion, chooses to waive that requirement. Id. § 4.4(3).

Plaintiff has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents. And even if he had, that, in and of itself, would not explain why Plaintiff has an individual interest in the classified documents. [my emphasis]

Trump has tried to claim that because the Presidential Records Act grants him access to his own former official papers, it means he has possessory interest over the classified documents seized from his home. This passage should end that debate, including the complaint Jim Trusty made in Dearie’s court the other day that the President’s lawyers (from the coverage I’ve seen, he didn’t say former) do not have a Need to Know the material in the documents Trump stole. Without DOJ needing to appeal this issue, the 11th Circuit has already sided with Dearie. As I showed here, the fact that even the former President can only access classified information with a Need to Know waiver is laid out explicitly in EO 13526, the Obama EO that (Trump has repeatedly conceded) governed classified information during Trump’s entire Administration and still governs it.

That should settle this issue.

Cannon should never have intervened

Now that I’ve slept some more, I wanted to return to what the 11th Circuit had to say about Judge Cannon’s jurisdictional acrobatics to even rule on Trump’s case.

The summary of this case is a really remarkable description of what has already happened (I’m sure it helped the clerks on that front that they had no page limits). Ominously for Trump’s case, the opinion starts the narrative from the time he left the White House and lays out several moments where Trump failed to invoke privilege or declassification. Trump likes to tell the story starting on August 8 when the FBI arrived at his house out of the blue.

But the opinion is particularly scathing in their description of jurisdiction. It describes that Trump invoked, among other things, equitable jurisdiction.

Regarding jurisdiction, among other bases, Plaintiff asserted that the district court could appoint a special master under its “supervisory authority” and its “inherent power” and could enjoin the government’s review under its “equitable jurisdiction.” Doc. No. 28 at 5–6.

In Trump’s reply to DOJ’s argument that he couldn’t own these documents, the opinion notes, he specifically disclaimed having filed a Rule 41(g), which is where someone moves to demand property unlawfully seized be returned.

Plaintiff appears to view appointment of a special master as a predicate to filing a motion under Rule 41(g) (which allows a person to seek return of seized items), he disclaimed reliance on that Rule for the time being, saying that he “h[ad] not yet filed a Rule 41(g) motion, and [so] the standard for relief under that rule [wa]s not relevant to the issue of whether the Court should appoint a Special Master.” Doc. No. 58 at 6.

Cannon, the opinion notes, claimed to be asserting jurisdiction under equitable jurisdiction even while treating Trump’s request (in which he had not made a Rule 41(g) motion) as a hybrid request.

As to jurisdiction, the district court first concluded that it enjoyed equitable jurisdiction because Plaintiff had sought the return of his property under Rule 41(g), which created a suit in equity.1 Because its jurisdiction was equitable, the district court explained, it turned to the Richey factors to decide whether to exercise equitable jurisdiction.2

Half that page of the opinion consists of footnotes, recording that Trump’s claims about Rule 41(g) have been all over the map.

1 As we have noted, Plaintiff disclaimed having already filed a Rule 41(g) motion in his initial reply to the government. Doc. No. 58 at 6. Yet in the same filing, Plaintiff stated that he “intends” to assert that records were seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Presidential Records Act and are “thus subject to return” under Rule 41(g). Id. at 8; see also id. at 18 (“Rule 41 exists for a reason, and the Movant respectfully asks that this Court ensure enough fairness and transparency, even if accompanied by sealing orders, to allow Movant to legitimately and fulsomely investigate and pursue relief under that Rule.”). The district court resolved this situation by classifying Plaintiff’s initial filing as a “hybrid motion” that seeks “ultimately the return of the seized property under Rule 41(g).” Doc. No. 64 at 6–7

2 Richey v. Smith, 515 F.2d 1239, 1243–44 (5th Cir. 1975) (outlining the standard for entertaining a pre-indictment motion for the return of property under Rule 41(g)). Because the Fifth Circuit issued this decision before the close of business on September 30, 1981, it is binding precedent in the Eleventh Circuit. See Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc).

In reviewing Trump’s response to the government’s motion for a stay, the opinion notes that Trump claims to have Rule 41(g) standing — with respect to the classified documents.

As the opinion laid out, in denying the stay, Cannon relied on claimed uncertainty around the status of the classified documents to find for Trump.

On September 15, the district court denied a stay pending appeal and appointed a special master. Doc. No. 89. In explaining the basis for its decision, the district court first reasoned that it was not prepared to accept, without further review by a special master, that “approximately 100 documents isolated by the Government . . . [were] classified government records.” Doc. No. 89 at 3. Second, the district court declined to accept the United States’s argument that it was impossible that Plaintiff could assert a privilege for some of the documents bearing classification markings. Doc. No. 89 at 3–4

The opinion doesn’t come to any conclusions about all this nonsense from a jurisdictional position. It doesn’t have to. But it did capture conflicting claims that Trump made and Cannon’s reliance on a “hybrid” claim to avoid pinning Trump down.

The reason the 11th Circuit didn’t have to resolve all this is because, regardless of which basis Cannon claimed to have intervened, Richey governs (which is exactly what Jay Bratt said in the hearing before Cannon, as I laid out here).

Our binding precedent states that when a person seeks return of seized property in pre-indictment cases, those actions “are governed by equitable principles, whether viewed as based on [Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure] 41[(g)] or on the general equitable jurisdiction of the federal courts.” Richey v. Smith, 515 F.2d 1239, 1243 (5th Cir. 1975). Here, while Plaintiff disclaimed that his motion was for return of property as specified in Rule 41(g), he asserted that equitable jurisdiction existed. And the district court relied on both Rule 41(g) and equitable jurisdiction in its orders. Doc. No. 64 at 8–12. Either way, Richey teaches that equitable principles control.

And the first prong of Richey — and the most important one — is whether there has been a Fourth Amendment violation. Cannon says there has not. That should be game over.

We begin, as the district court did, with “callous disregard,” which is the “foremost consideration” in determining whether a court should exercise its equitable jurisdiction. United States v. Chapman, 559 F.2d 402, 406 (5th Cir. 1977). Indeed, our precedent emphasizes the “indispensability of an accurate allegation of callous disregard.” Id. (alteration accepted and quotation omitted).

Here, the district court concluded that Plaintiff did not show that the United States acted in callous disregard of his constitutional rights. Doc. No. 64 at 9. No party contests the district court’s finding in this regard. The absence of this “indispensab[le]” factor in the Richey analysis is reason enough to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in exercising equitable jurisdiction here. Chapman, 559 F.2d at 406. But for the sake of completeness, we consider the remaining factors. [my emphasis]

Because the opinion continued this analysis, this determination: that Cannon never had the authority to intervene in the first place, is not the most important part of the 11th Circuit’s grant of a stay. But it would be important going forward on the appeal (and may influence how broadly DOJ appeals Cannon’s decision).

Later in the opinion, the 11th Circuit noted that Cannon had also suggested she might be invoking jurisdiction under “inherent supervisory authority,” though it couldn’t really tell. It then mocked the possibility she could exercise inherent authority over classified documents.

The district court referred fleetingly to invoking its “inherent supervisory authority,” though it is unclear whether it utilized this authority with respect to the orders at issue in this appeal. Doc. No. 64 at 1, 7 n.8. Either way, the court’s exercise of its inherent authority is subject to two limits: (1) it “must be a reasonable response to the problems and needs confronting the court’s fair administration of justice,” and (2) it “cannot be contrary to any express grant of or limitation on the district court’s power contained in a rule or statute.” Dietz v. Bouldin, 136 S. Ct. 1885, 1892 (2016) (quotation omitted). The district court did not explain why the exercise of its inherent authority concerning the documents with classified markings would fall within these bounds, other than its reliance on its Richey-factor analysis. We have already explained why that analysis was in error.

The 11th Circuit has not just said that DOJ has cause for a stay, but it has said that Cannon should never have intervened in the first place.

Richey within Nken

Because of what I just laid out — that the 11th Circuit decided that Cannon should never have intervened, but then went onto consider a bunch of other issues — and because I laid out the structure of both sides’ arguments in this post, I want to lay out the structure of the 11th Circuit’s analysis here. It nests the likelihood of DOJ’s success, using Richey analysis, inside their overall analysis of whether to grant the stay under Nken.

The four Nken factors are:

(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits;

(2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay;

(3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and

(4) where the public interest lies.

The four very similar Richey factors are:

(1) whether the government has “displayed a callous disregard for the constitutional rights” of the subject of the search;

(2) whether the plaintiff has an individual interest in and need for the material whose return he seeks

(3) whether the plaintiff would be irreparably injured by denial of the return of his property; and

(4) whether the plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law for the redress of his grievance.

Here’s how it looked in practice:

  • Is DOJ likely to succeed on the merits?
    • Was Cannon’s Richey analysis correct?
      1. Is there any claim of callous disregard for Trump’s rights? No. Cannon said so.
      2. Does Trump have an individual interest in this material?
        • Cannon’s analysis applies to “medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information,” not to classified documents.
        • There would be no individual interest in classified documents and Trump has no Need to Know these documents.
        • Trump has provided no proof he declassified any of these documents and even if he had, it would not change its content or make it a personal document.
      3. Would Trump be irreparably harmed? Cannon said it might be improperly disclosed, it might include privileged material, and he might be prosecuted.
        • USG limits dissemination of classified documents to limit unauthorized dissemination, not to leak them.
        • Trump has not asserted privilege over any of the classified documents.
        • Except in cases of harassment, courts don’t intervene in criminal prosecutions
      4. Does Trump have another remedy?
        • Cannon said that he would have no legal means of seeking return of his property, but then also acknowledged that he hadn’t used the means, a Rule 41(g) motion, that he would take to get return of his property.
  • Would the US suffer irreparable harm?
    1. Cannon’s injunction is untenable. Kohler has explained that the criminal investigation is inextricably intertwined with the national security review. The government needs to be able to do a backward looking review of what happened with the documents.
    2. DOJ says sharing the documents with the Special Master and Trump’s counsel would impose irreparable harm, and under Navy v. Egan, we agree.
  • Has Trump shown he’ll be injured?
    1. Trump neither owns nor has a personal interest in these classified documents.
    2. “Bearing the discomfiture and cost of a prosecution for crime even by an innocent person is one of the painful obligations of citizenship.”
    3. The government’s use of these documents that don’t include privileged information would not risk disclosure of privileged information.
  • What about public interest?
    • According to the classification system, investigating the disclosure of documents marked Top Secret by definition involves investigating whether something that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to national security” was disclosed. So a stay is in the public interest.

One reason I laid this structure out is because, in the filings before the 11th Circuit, the various harms were muddled. Trump even argued (because DOJ treated them in tandem, I think) that the government had merged DOJ and public interest. Trump (and Cannon) had effectively tied the harm of Trump to the harm of the public.

As this makes it clear, Trump’s harm is assessed at both levels of analysis. Though the 11th Circuit’s Richey analysis says that once you’ve found Trump’s rights were not harmed (in blue above), you need go no further. But on the Nken analysis, the question is whether the government would be irreparably harmed (in red above). And there, once you accept the US system of classification, in which the disclosure of things that are classified Top Secret by definition would cause exceptionally grave harm, then there’s no contest.

Update: Judge Cannon has removed the classified documents from those included in the seized materials covered by her order.

Go to emptywheel resource page on Trump Espionage Investigation.

DOJ Raises Prospect that Trump Continues to Obstruct Investigation, Including of Empty Folders

DOJ submitted its reply in its request for the 11th Circuit to stay parts of Aileen Cannon’s order pertaining to documents marked classified. The matter is fully briefed, so the 11 Circuit could rule at any time.

There’s little that’s new in the reply, except for DOJ’s response to Trump’s claim that the 11th Circuit cannot hear an interlocutory appeal as to whether DOJ has to share the classified files with Judge Raymond Dearie and Trump’s lawyers. The government cites three bases for appeal: a claim that they are appealing Cannon’s initial order on September 5 stating she would appoint a Special Master, an assertion that an order to share classified information would be appealable by itself, and if all that fails, a writ of mandamus.

2 If the Court harbors any doubts about its jurisdiction over portions of the September 5 order, it should construe the government’s appeal and stay motion as a petition for a writ of mandamus with respect to those portions and grant the petition. See SuarezValdez v. Shearson Leahman/American Express, Inc., 858 F.2d 648, 649 (11th Cir. 1988).

This jurisdictional dispute is, in my opinion, getting too little attention, because it’s one way Trump could succeed even though all the facts are against him. That said, as the government suggested, they believe they could separately appeal the order to share information (and so they could just turn around and file another appeal to address that order). Moreover, in yesterday’s hearing, Dearie indicated that, absent any affirmative claim that Trump has declassified any documents, he would resolve that issue without looking at the documents. (See also Adam Klasfeld’s report on the hearing.)

DOJ also points to Trump’s proposed topics for yesterday’s hearing to note that he refuses to say that he declassified any of the documents at issue (and that he’s already seeking to draw out this process).

Plaintiff again implies that he could have declassified the records before leaving office. As before, however, Plaintiff conspicuously fails to represent, much less show, that he actually took that step. And Plaintiff is now resisting the special master’s proposal that he identify any records he claims to have declassified and substantiate those claims with evidence. D.E. 97 at 2-3.

[snip]

To the contrary, after persuading the district court to grant injunctive relief and appoint a special master to adjudicate purportedly “disputed issues” about the records’ status, A6-A7, Plaintiff has now reversed course: In response to the special master’s invitation to identify any records he claims to have declassified and offer evidence to support such claims, Plaintiff objected to “disclos[ing] specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government.” D.E. 97 at 2.

The timing of these filings serves the government’s case well, because Trump is refusing to make the kind of affirmative claims that a plaintiff would need to make for relief (though with another day, DOJ could have relied upon a transcript of the Dearie hearing as well, in which Jim Trusty asserted that with his Top Secret — but not SCI — clearance he should not be denied the Need to Know to access the documents).

The ease with which DOJ rebutted Trump’s factual claims is downright funny in places (or would be, if not for the possibility that some nutjob panel on the 11th won’t see the humor). For example, DOJ noted what I did — Trump invoked notes he had written on documents to claim Executive Privilege over some of the documents with classification marks. But those were documents turned over in June, not documents seized in August.

Indeed, except for a brief footnote, his response does not mention executive privilege at all. And the footnote states only that other classified documents recovered before the search contained Plaintiff’s handwritten notes and that those notes “could” contain privileged information. Resp. 13 n.5; see A73. But the question is not whether the records at issue here might contain material that in other circumstances could give rise to valid claims of executive privilege against disclosure to Congress or the public. Instead, it is whether Plaintiff can assert the privilege to prevent the Executive Branch itself from reviewing records that are central to its investigation.

DOJ doesn’t note here that these were documents turned over in response to a subpoena, but elsewhere, it notes that he didn’t raise such privilege claims when he turned over the records.

Plaintiff should not be heard to assert a privilege that he failed to raise in response to a grand-jury subpoena.

In other words, Trump is relying on documents that he turned over with no privilege claim to suggest he might withhold documents based on an Executive Privilege claim.

DOJ similarly notes that Trump pointed to a portion of the seized materials he might own as his basis for a claim DOJ shouldn’t have access to files he cannot own.

Plaintiff asserts (at 10) that he owns other seized evidence, such as “personal effects.” He may well have standing to seek return of that “portion” of the seized evidence. United States v. Melquiades, 394 Fed. Appx. 578, 584 (11th Cir. 2010). But he cites no authority supporting a claim for return of records that do not belong to him.

Both these areas are where Trump is stuck trying to make Cannon’s gimmicks to justify intervening hold up under scrutiny.

I’m most interested in how DOJ repeats something it has already said. It asserted that it may need to use additional search warrants to hunt down  any files disclosed to others.

As the government explained—and as supported by a sworn declaration from the Assistant Director for the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division—the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) classification review and national-security assessment cannot uncover the full set of facts needed to understand which if any records bearing classification markings were disclosed, to whom, and in what circumstances. Mot. 18; A41-A42. The FBI has a critical role in using criminal investigative tools such as witness interviews, subpoenas, and search warrants in pursuit of these facts. A42. The injunction bars the FBI from using the seized records bearing classification markings to do just that. Plaintiff asserts that the government has shown only “that it would be easier . . . to conduct the criminal investigation and national security assessment in tandem.” Resp. 17. But the injunction prohibits DOJ and the FBI from taking these investigative steps unless they are “inextricable” from what the court referred to as the IC’s “Security Assessments,” A11-A12—a standard that the government must discern on pain of contempt.

Plaintiff next dismisses the government’s national-security concerns as “hypothetical.” Resp. 17 (citing A11). But the injunction is preventing the government from taking some of the steps necessary to determine whether those concerns have or may become a reality. Moreover, Plaintiff fails to address the harms caused by the injunction’s interference in the expeditious administration of the criminal laws, and by the possibility that the government’s law-enforcement efforts will be obstructed (or perhaps further obstructed). Mot. 19-20. Plaintiff states only that the injunction will last for a “short period,” Resp. 19. At the same time, Plaintiff is already attempting to delay proceedings before the special master. See D.E. 97 at 1-2 (seeking to extend deadlines and set hearings “on any Rule 41 or related filings” in “Late November”). [my emphasis]

As noted, DOJ made this argument — relying on Alan Kohler’s declaration, the only sworn declaration in the docket — in its motion for a stay before Cannon. But when they suggested that Trump may have leaked documents in their initial filing before the 11th, they only mentioned compulsory process, not warrants specifically.

For example, the court’s injunction bars the government from “using the content of the documents to conduct witness interviews.” A9. The injunction also appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing. See A42 (describing recovery of “empty folders with ‘classified’ banners”). And the injunction would prohibit the government from using any aspect of the seized records’ contents to support the use of compulsory process to locate any additional records.

This is all couched in the language of hypothetical possibilities. DOJ is not saying that they currently have plans to execute further warrants in search of the documents Trump stole and, possibly, leaked to others.

But they are suggesting that may be a step they would take — before such time as the Special Master process ends in November — to try to hunt down the contents that used to be in those empty folders or other files Trump leaked to people not cleared to have them.

Christina Bobb, whom (according to the NYT) investigators already asked to interview, amended the declaration that Evan Corcoran wrote, possibly to limit her own certification to files still at Mar-a-Lago. If DOJ has since learned why that declaration did not incorporate all documents in Trump’s possession — something that has been a focus for weeks — the injunction really might be preventing further action, including search warrants to get them back.

Go to emptywheel resource page on Trump Espionage Investigation.

Trump Sweeps Evidence of Obstruction under the Appellate Rug

Trump submitted his response to DOJ’s motion for a stay of Judge Cannon’s injunction and one part of her order appointing Dearie. To help show what the two sides have done, I want to compare the structures and content/scope arguments, which I’ve done below.

Several things stick out.

First, Trump — in the form of his competent appellate lawyer, Chris Kise — spent almost a quarter of their response addressing an appellate issue: whether DOJ can move for a stay of the part of the Special Master order requiring a review of the documents marked as classified. This part of the filing is competent, larded with precedent (the government’s primary precedent, unsurprisingly, is US v Nixon). I’m not well-versed enough in appellate issues to assess this argument (I think it doesn’t adequately account for the posture of DOJ’s appeal). So I’ll leave it out there for smarter people to address.

The two sides are telling a very different history. Trump has simply ignored everything that preceded August 8 — as well as the basis for the Espionage and obstruction investigations into him — to suggest his personal items and classified records were seized out of the blue on August 8. DOJ, of course, tells the story of his extended obstruction before that.

Because the government doesn’t deal with the public harm in a separate section from the one in it which it deals with the government interest in national security, Trump suggests the government conflates the two. Trump, meanwhile, suggests he still has a say in what is good for national security. Underlying all this is who gets to decide what is the public good, and whether DOJ’s claims of national security harm (plus the criminal investigation) get there by themself.

Aside from the appellate issue, Trump’s argument is a moving target, at one point treating Cannon’s order as she granted it (to find possessory interest in the potentially privileged material Trump has had in hand for 4 days), in other places ignoring the government’s more bracketed argument. Nowhere does Trump address the government’s argument that even if the documents are declassified, they are still evidence in a criminal investigation into obstruction and still necessary for national security purposes. In short, Trump largely addresses Cannon’s larger order, not DOJ’s much more circumscribed request.

Update: Here is DOJ’s reply, which I’ll address later on Wednesday.

Go to emptywheel resource page on Trump Espionage Investigation.


DOJ motion

Intro and Summary

Two weeks after a search, Trump asked for a special master and a stay. The government thinks the ruling was problematic for a bunch of reasons, but is only asking for a stay of the most problematic parts involving documents marked classified.

A. Background

This spans from Trump’s refusal to return documents to NARA, the criminal referral, the June 3 meeting, and the search warrant.

B. Proceedings below

This was brought on equitable jurisdiction, which requires exceptional circumstances. It notes that Cannon did not resolve the question of whether a former President can prohibit the current Executive from reviewing their own documents.

The government is appealing only with respect to records bearing classified markings. Cannon did not address the issue that there is no way Trump owns these documents

Then Cannon ordered the government to share classified documents with Dearie and Trump’s lawyers.

Argument

I. The government is likely to succeed on the merits

A. The court erred by exercising jurisdiction as to records bearing classification marks

  1. Trump lacks standing
  2. Cannon’s exercise of equitable jurisdiction cannot extend to these records under Richey
  3. The PRA doesn’t apply to returning records, plus the reason these aren’t accessible to Trump is because he failed to comply with PRA

B. Records bearing classification marks aren’t subject to any plausible claim of privilege

  1. Executive privilege exists for the benefit of the Republic
  2. Any claim of privilege by a former against the incumbent would fail with regards to records bearing classified markings
  3. Trump declined to invoke privilege when served with a subpoena

C. No factual dispute justifies Cannon’s order with regards to records bearing classified marks

  1. Trump doesn’t dispute the government recovered records bearing classification marks
  2. Even if Trump claimed he declassified these, they were still subject to the subpoena, plus the claim they might be “personal” means he can’t invoke privilege

II. The government and the public is irreparably harmed

A. By enjoining the investigation, Cannon’s order prevents the government from protecting national security

B. The injunction unduly interferes with a criminal investigation

C. Disclosure of records to the Special Master and plaintiff’s counsel would jeopardize national security

III. A partial stay would not harm Trump

DOJ has already reviewed these, and the only harm that might come is the investigation into him, which is not a cognizable harm.

Trump response

I. Summary and argument

The investigation of Trump is unprecedented. Having failed to convince Cannon to stay her order, the government appealed. She made no error.

II. Factual background

The government conducted a search and to protect Trump’s interest, Trump asked for a third party review. The government enjoined further criminal investigation but not national security review. Cannon appointed Dearie, who has a lot of experience.

The government sought a stay and Cannon denied it. Dearie has a lot of experience. The government sought a stay.

III. Standard of review

  1. Likely to prevail
  2. Irreparable harm
  3. Trump will suffer no substantial harm
  4. The public interest will be served

A. Standard of review — injunction

Requires clear abuse of discretion.

B. Standard of review — appointment of Special Master

Abuse of discretion, but not on interlocutory appeal.

IV. Argument

A. Cannon properly temporarily enjoined the government because she didn’t enjoin the national security review.

  1. The government misconstrues the standard for Rule 41(g) review [This is not a Rule 41(g) review, and Trump doesn’t address anything but the privileged material]
  2. The government hasn’t proven the documents are classified [The government’s argument holds even if the documents are only marked classified]
  3. Trump has a possessory interest in Presidential Records [which they establish because he has access, but not possession of]
  4. The government cannot say it will be irreparably harmed because Cannon disagreed with the sworn declaration saying that the investigation must be part of the national security review
  5. Trump and the public would be harmed by a stay [without addressing the public need or the classification issue]

B. The government’s motion for a stay amounts to an appeal of the Special Master appointment which is not appealable on an interlocutory basis.