U.S. Supreme Court won't step into fight over FBI search of Trump's Florida home
In separate developments Thursday, N.Y. AG seeks a court-appointed monitor for Trump Organization
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected former president Donald Trump's plea to step into the legal fight over the FBI search of his Florida estate.
The justices did not otherwise comment in turning away Trump's emergency appeal.
Trump had pressed the court on an issue relating to classified documents seized in the search of Mar-a-Lago.
The Trump team was asking the justices to overturn a lower court ruling and permit an independent arbiter, or special master, to review the roughly 100 documents with classified markings that were taken in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
The move Thursday appears to greatly reduce the potential impact of the special master process to the ongoing U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation into the classified documents.
A federal appeals court had already restored the department's access to the classified documents, which had been investigators' primary goal. And the Supreme Court's decision to stay out of the fray ensures that the special master will not have access to those same records as the FBI and Justice Department evaluate if criminal charges are merited.
A three-judge panel from the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last month limited the special master's review to the much larger tranche of non-classified documents. The judges, including two Trump appointees, sided with the Justice Department, which had argued there was no legal basis for the special master to conduct his own review of the classified records.
But Trump's lawyers said in their application to the Supreme Court that it was essential for the special master to have access to the classified records to "determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are personal records or Presidential records."
The Justice Department said in a Supreme Court filing that Trump's request had no merit.
The FBI says it seized roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification markings, during its search. The Trump team asked a judge in Florida, Aileen Cannon, to appoint a special master to do an independent review of the records.
Cannon subsequently assigned a veteran Brooklyn judge, Raymond Dearie, to review the records and segregate those that may be protected by claims of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. The Justice Department objected to Dearie's ability to review the classified records, prompting the 11th Circuit to side with the department.
The department also is appealing Cannon's entire ruling to the 11th Circuit.
Court-appointed monitor sought for company
In separate events on Thursday, New York state Attorney General Letitia James said Trump's family company is trying to restructure itself to avoid potential consequences from a lawsuit accusing the Trump Organization, Trump and three of his adult children of fraud.
James urged a New York state court in Manhattan to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the company before the civil fraud case, which accuses the real estate firm and the other defendants of overvaluing its assets and Trump's net worth through a decade of lies to banks and insurers, goes to trial.
James said the Trump Organization on the date of the lawsuit registered a new Delaware-incorporated company named "Trump Organization II" with New York authorities. She said the Trump Organization has not provided assurances it will not seek to move assets out of New York.
Trump, a Republican, and his company have denied wrongdoing and call the case a politically motivated "witch hunt." James is a Democrat and is running for re-election in November.
"We have repeatedly provided assurance, in writing, that the Trump Organization has no intention of doing anything improper," Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement, calling James' request a "stunt" to help her campaign and an attempt to influence which judge gets assigned the case.
Lawyers for Trump's children and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Faster timeline sought
On Thursday, James asked the court to bar the Trump Organization from offloading its assets while the case plays out, to prevent it from issuing financial statements that do not explain their methodology, and to appoint a monitor to ensure compliance with those conditions, court papers showed.
She also asked to speed up the case and sought a trial date for October 2023.
"Since we filed this sweeping lawsuit last month, Donald Trump and the Trump Organization have continued those same fraudulent practices and taken measures to evade responsibility," James said in a statement. "Today, we are seeking an immediate stop to these actions."
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The Trump Organization manages hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world, and had been under investigation by James for more than three years.
Through the lawsuit, James is seeking to remove the Trumps from power at their company, prohibit Trump and the three adult children named in the case from serving as corporate officers or directors in New York, and to recoup at least $250 million US of alleged improper gains.
The lawsuit said Trump's scheme was designed to fraudulently induce banks to lend money more cheaply, coax insurers into providing coverage for higher limits at lower premiums, and obtain tax benefits.
James said Trump pretended his Trump Tower apartment was 30,000 square feet, when it was actually 10,996 square feet, and that its $327 million valuation in 2015 was "absurd" because no New York City apartment had sold for $100 million at the time.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has separately charged the Trump Organization with criminal tax fraud, and is preparing for an Oct. 24 trial. The company has pleaded not guilty.
With files from Reuters