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In major setback for Trump, appeals court ends special master’s review of seized Mar-a-Lago records

A federal appeals court Thursday ruled that a judge’s order appointing a special master to review documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort should be dismissed.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit lifts earlier restrictions on the Justice Department’s examination of classified documents and other records and will allow investigators to proceed with the probe more quickly.

The panel said that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s order in September to appoint an arbiter and prevent the government from using a trove of documents it retrieved from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Aug. 8 with a search warrant was incorrect.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant,” the panel wrote. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

In a separate order, the panel said its order will take effect in seven days, barring any intervention by the Supreme Court. Trump could appeal Thursday’s ruling and request that the appeals court order be put on hold.

NBC News has reached out to a Trump spokesperson for comment.

The appeals court ruling rolls back Cannon’s appointment of Raymond J. Dearie, a senior U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of New York, to review all of the materials retrieved from Mar-a-Lago after Trump’s team argued that they couldn’t rely on a so-called filter team at the Justice Department to set aside any privileged documents. The filter team is separate from the investigators conducting the criminal probe.

Legal experts at the time blasted Cannon’s ruling to grant Trump’s request for an independent review, with many questioning the implementation process and warning that the government’s eventual appeal was likely to drag the investigation out further.

Two of the three judges on the appeals court panel — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher — were appointed by Trump. The third, Chief Judge Brill Pryor, was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

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