Dhe former US President Donald Trump has called in the country’s Supreme Court in the dispute over the evaluation of confiscated secret documents. Trump’s attorneys petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn the lower court’s decision. The core question is who has access to around 100 confiscated secret documents. The US government is trying to criminalize a dispute over document management, the attorneys wrote in their filing.
Trump’s step is preceded by a legal tug of war through the authorities. In early August, the Federal Police FBI searched Trump’s villa in the US state of Florida. The FBI confiscated various classified documents, some with the highest level of secrecy. According to the law, this material should have been given to the National Archives. Among the thousands of documents, according to the FBI, were around 100 documents marked as secret.
A decision on how to proceed is expected shortly
At the end of September, the US Department of Justice had achieved an important success in court. The Court of Appeal ruled that investigators may continue to use some of the confiscated documents for their work. It overturned the decision of a Florida court. This initially prohibited the investigators from using the documents marked as secret as long as the neutral examiner employed in the case, Raymond Dearie, deals with the documents.
As part of the decision of the court of appeal, the special auditor was denied access to the documents marked as secret. Trump’s attorneys have now petitioned the Supreme Court to allow Examiner Dearie to examine the documents. They argue that during his tenure as President, Trump had unlimited authority to declassify documents. Therefore, markings alone cannot determine whether a document is still classified or whether Trump has released it. Therefore, the special investigator must be able to access and examine these questions.
Trump’s team also argues with very technical questions about the jurisdiction of the federal court. If the Supreme Court agrees to the application, the investigators may be denied access to all or some of the classified documents. Experts also assume that Trump’s team is speculating that it will have an advantage with the lower court with regard to possible disputed documents. In this way, they could hope that a legal dispute over the classification of a document would be decided in favor of the special examiner and not the government.
Since this is an urgent application, the Supreme Court should decide on how to proceed very soon. This could already happen in the coming days. Trump had repeatedly described the investigation as politically motivated and denied any responsibility. He repeatedly defended himself by declassifying the classified information.
Three judges chosen by Trump
In a recent interview, he even claimed that a US President could release secret documents simply by saying so – or just thinking about it. In fact, there is a formal process for releasing documents, with several highly official steps. The release should also have taken place during Trump’s term in office – and not afterwards.
The Supreme Court is also currently the focus of particular attention in the USA. During his tenure, Trump was able to place three judges on the Supreme Court, thereby moving the court significantly to the right in the long term. Currently, six of the nine judges are assigned to the right wing. According to surveys, public confidence in the court has recently declined significantly. The reason for this was, among other things, the historic decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the right to abortion.