An appeals court ruled that a special master must stop reviewing Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents.
Trump succeeded in having lower courts appoint a special master, delaying a federal investigation.
The special master was set to review thousands of classified documents that the former president kept.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a special master must stop reviewing documents that former President Donald Trump stashed at his Mar-a-Lago estate, handing the Justice Department a big win.
On Thursday, the 11th circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision to appoint a special master, a third party to review documents which Trump succeeded in pushing for in lower courts, delaying DOJ's criminal investigation for months.
"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," the judges wrote. "We chose the first option. So this case must be dismissed."
In September, Florida Judge Aileen Cannon appointed a special master, which the Justice Department appealed. Several of the judges who made Thursday's decision to vacate were Trump appointees and had signaled their disagreement with Trump's camp and Cannon's move last week.
"The law is clear," the judges wrote on Thursday. "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."
They added: "Either approach would be a radical reordering of our case law limiting the federal courts' involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations."
Initially, the special master was tasked with reviewing all the documents that were recovered at Mar-a-Lago, including 11,000 general records and 100 documents marked as classified, with the goal of determining whether any of the documents are protected by attorney-client or executive privilege.
The move to appoint a special master opened an unprecedented Pandora's box of concerns for national security experts. And in mid-November, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that special prosecutor Jack Smith would oversee criminal investigations into Trump, based on the former president's decision to run for office again.