A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that documents seized by the FBI from Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago estate don’t need to be reviewed by a special master, in a major legal loss for the former president.

The decision overruled a previous order issued in September by Judge Aileen Cannon — a Trump appointee — that determined that an independent third-party judge, called a special master, should review the files before the Department of Justice continue the investigations — which could ultimately slow the process.


Cannon appointed Raymond Dearie, a senior federal judge in New York, for the job.


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The appeals court ruled that Cannon’s decision was incorrect because it could set a concerning precedent, allowing any target of an investigation to go to court and ask for a special master.

The panel, formed of three judges — two of them nominated by Trump — also emphasized that it’s not permissible to create a rule specifically for former presidents.

“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,” the opinion reads.

Trump may appeal the decision to the full Appeals Court or the Supreme Court.

“The panel’s decision today is purely procedural and based only on jurisdiction,” a Trump spokesman said in a statement. “The decision does not address the merits that clearly demonstrate the impropriety of the unprecedented, illegal, and unwarranted raid on Mar-a-Lago.”

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