Acting quickly and with no dissents noted, the Supreme Court refused on Thursday to give former President Donald Trump access to secret documents that the FBI had taken from his Mar a Lago resort in Florida in August. The action, done with no explanation, was not a surprise.
As a result, those classified materials will remain under the control of the Biden Administration Justice Department as it continues to use them as it explores possible criminal charges against Trump based on his possession and handling of those documents.
Another effect is that U.S. intelligence agencies will also be able to continue, uninterrupted, a presumably wide-sweeping investigation of why Trump took the materials when he left the White House, what he has done with them, who else might have had access to them, and what damage may have been done to national security while Trump had them.
The latest plea by Trump to the Justices was technical and narrow, seeking only to have the Court set aside a federal appeals court order that kept the classified documents away from Trump, from his lawyers and from a special court officer who is exploring whether Trump has any legal right to claim access, ownership or control of 11,000 other, unclassified documents that also were seized during the FBI search.
Trump’s request had been filed with Justice Clarence Thomas in his role as the point of contact for emergency requests from the federal region that includes Florida. Thomas referred the request to the full Court, and the denial by the full Court then came quickly in a one-sentence order.
The appeals court is now reviewing, on an expedited schedule, whether a federal judge in Florida had any authority to limit the Justice Department’s access to the classified materials or to set up the review by the special court officer, known as a “special master.” Trump’s lawyers had taken the access issue to federal court after the FBI search, insisting that many of the records were his own or should be returned to him for use by his attorneys or by him in his former capacity as President. The Supreme Court’s order Thursday took no position on those claims.