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Hey there, it's the NPR Politics Podcast.
I'm Deepa Shiveram, I cover politics.
And I'm Carrie Johnson, National Justice correspondent.
There's been a lot of developments
in the various court cases surrounding former president Donald Trump.
So let's bring in Andrea Bernstein,
who covers Trump's ongoing legal issues for NPR,
Andrea. Hey, Deepa, hey, Carrie.
All right, so let's start first a ruling that came in late last night,
allowing the Justice Department to resume its probe
of documents seized at Trump's Mara Logo home.
Carrie, back up a bit here, remind us how we got to this point.
Well, remember on August 8th, the former president told the world
that he had been subject to a search by multiple FBI agents
at his resort in Mara Logo in Florida,
and that the FBI had taken numerous materials.
Since that time, Trump has put up a big legal fight.
He won in a lower court asking for a special master
to review some of these materials for possible
attorney client privilege and executive privilege issues.
Well, last night, a three judge panel
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
disagreed, rebuked in that lower court judge,
Eileen Cannon, who was appointed by Donald Trump.
And basically, has allowed the Justice Department to proceed
with parts of its big ongoing investigation.
So this is in appeals court.
What exactly did this ruling from last night say?
Walk us through that.
DOJ did something relatively savvy here, according to legal experts.
DOJ did not contest the idea of a special master altogether,
but basically said for the 100 odd pages of material
marked classified that the FBI had recovered from Mara Logo
in August, that it needed to use those materials
to continue its damage assessment and national security.
And to advance its probe of possible obstruction of justice
and mishandling of government secrets.
And DOJ said that its authorities needed to review that material.
Now, the federal appeals court last night
agreed with the Justice Department
found that there would be potentially a reputable harm
to national security into the public interest.
If prosecutors were curtailed and pursuing both of these parts
of the investigation.
And the court also said that these were not former president
Trump's materials, at least were not personal papers.
These were papers that belonged to the government
and that on their face were marked classified.
Right, and this really saves the Department of Justice some time here
in the investigation as well.
But in the meantime, in the background of all of this, Andrea,
there is a three year investigation that was going on.
New York State Attorney General, Attisha James,
filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against Trump.
The complaint demonstrates that Donald Trump
falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars
to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat this system.
Andrea, tell me about that suit.
So this was a massive $250 million civil lawsuit against
Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump,
and Eric Trump, as well as top corporate executives
and a number of Trump business entities.
And basically, what the Attorney General alleged
in some in substance is that the Trump family business
had a business model of fraud that they persistently
lied about the value of their properties of Trump,
tower in New York, of the golf courses of Mara Lago,
all in order to fraudulently obtain favorable bank loans
according to the complaint, as well as get better deals on their taxes
and cheat insurance companies out of money that was due to them.
What was so striking about this is that there were more than 200 examples
in the 222 page complaint incidentally.
There were many cases where Donald Trump seems to have changed
his business practices as a response to this investigation.
So this is a big, big deal.
This is the third lawsuit that the New York Attorney General's office
has brought against Trump entities.
And in each case, there were severe penalties.
This case is so much bigger because it involves the central business
of the Trump organization, real estate, resorts, golf courses,
It is all there.
And what they are asking is not only for $2500, but essentially
for the Trumps to have to step back from doing business in New York.
So 200 examples of fraud is like, I'm still stuck on that.
But I just want to clarify here.
This means that there's no criminal charges from this suit,
right, because it's a civil case.
Are there potential for this to turn into a criminal case as well?
So there could be a criminal investigation resulting from this.
The New York Attorney General has referred this case to the Southern District of New York,
which is the federal prosecutors in Manhattan, part of the Justice Department,
and also the IRS to examine whether any of the allegations in this civil lawsuit
in fact also mean that there was criminal federal tax fraud.
OK, I got it. And just generally, we know that Trump has been quick to criticize
investigations into him.
What has he said in response to this civil suit so far?
So Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have essentially
called a witch hunt.
They've said it is without merit.
I think one of the interesting things about this is that that has been a
Donald Trump has been resisting this investigation,
and was actually held in contempt of court, refused to turn over documents,
and in his briefs in that he and his lawyers represented that this was a witch hunt.
And the judge in this case said, well, it doesn't matter that the New York Attorney General
is a Democrat.
It doesn't matter that when she ran for office,
she said she was going to investigate Donald Trump.
What matters are the facts and the law.
Interesting. All right, we're going to take a quick break and we'll be back in a second.
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And we're back with more investigations.
Carrie, let's go back into the Mara Logo case and the special master.
Donald Trump was on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News last night talking about the
documents involved in that case.
If you're the president of the United States, you can declass if I just by saying
it's declass, but even by thinking about it because you're sending it to Mara Logo
or to wherever you're sending it.
And it doesn't have to be a process.
There can be a process, but it doesn't have to be.
Carrie, explain some of that and also, you know, you walked us through
the ruling from the 11th circuit that came out.
What happens next?
So, you know, even though Donald Trump has been in his allies,
I have been making arguments since August that some of these materials may have been declassified,
there's actually no paperwork reflecting that at all.
And multiple courts now, both the 11th circuit and the special master have raised
doubts about the idea that these materials were actually declassified.
The 11th circuit last night said, there's no evidence in the record.
And when the special master asked Trump's lawyers about it in Brooklyn earlier this week,
they didn't answer the question.
But in any event, the judges say, this whole issue is a red herring,
because even if you declassified a particular document,
it wouldn't make it a personal document that would be Donald Trump's document.
It would still be a government document.
And the government documents belong with a government, especially classified ones,
which belong in special secure compartmented facilities,
not in Florida resort.
So what happened today is that the judge,
Ileam Cannon and Florida, the one who initially appointed the special master,
told the special master, no, he no longer had to deal with these classified materials.
And the special master, who was appointed during the Reagan administration,
is the guy who's been doing this for a long time, a very long time.
He seems to want to get this process done quickly.
And the idea that the 11th circuit has now intervened could mean that there will be
less delay of the sort that DOJ had wanted to avoid and Trump's legal team had been
angling for all this time.
The Justice Department wouldn't say today,
whether it's resumed its review of the materials, but we do know they've told courts
that they want to get this done as quickly as possible.
And so they have many steps to take, including grand jury and witness interviews,
and they're going to take them now.
And I have one more investigation to ask about, there are more January 6 hearings coming up.
And a lot has changed since the last hearing, right?
Yeah, the House of Leth committee is going to hold what it's calling for now.
It's final hearing on September 28th.
We don't know exactly what that's going to focus on yet.
But we do know that they have a record now of producing some blockbuster new information.
And so all eyes are going to be on that.
We're going to cover that, of course, for NPR on the podcast.
And next week, also the Justice Department will begin in federal court here in DC.
It's first seditious conspiracy trial against former leaders of the oath keepers.
The far right militia group they're accused of allegedly trying to overthrow the government by
force before and after January 6 in the Capitol insurrection.
So we're going to be watching that closely, too.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge.
And the last January 6 hearings this past summer, just to go back to when we started the hearings
back at the beginning of June, there was very little public about any justice department
investigations of the former president or of the actions around January 6 in violent top level
officials and in fact several members of the committee directly appealed to the Justice Department
to get involved.
Since then, we've learned a whole lot more about Justice Department's subpoenas
to former members of the Trump administration about investigations of fake electors,
about investigation of fundraising schemes.
And of course, the investigation of Mara Logo.
All that has happened since these hearings began.
So it's a very different environment that the House committee is now coming in
with its non criminal investigation of what happened leading up to January 6.
All right, let's leave it there for today.
Andrea Birdstein, thank you for joining.
I'm Diba Schipper, I cover politics.
I'm Kerry Johnson, National Justice correspondent.
And thank you for listening to the NPR politics podcast.
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