Remember the funny look your mother could give you when you asked to do something you were hoping to get away with?
Why would the magistrate judge sign a warrant for the FBI to raid/search Mar-a-Lago?
Is it just me, or does AG Attorney General Merrick Garland remind you of another high-profile political naif, Dr. Fauci?
A Grave Blunder
Of more important concern, James Freeman in the WSJ writes, is whether the raid on Trump’s residence was “appropriate and necessary?”
According to NRO, three dozen agents arrived at 9am Monday, accompanied by Palm Beach cops and met by the Secret service protective detail. During the 10-hour search, they focused their search on “a bedroom, an office and a storage room” and removed “some 10-15 boxes of documents.”
From the Journal’s Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman:
Around lunchtime on June 3, a senior Justice Department national security supervisor and three FBI agents arrived at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to discuss boxes with government records sitting in a basement storage room along with suits, sweaters and golf shoes.
A few days later, the FBI sent a note asking that a stronger lock be installed on the storage room door, signing off: “Thank you. Very truly yours, Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence and export control section.”
Mr. Freeman asks, “Does this sound like cause for obtaining an unprecedented warrant to search the home of a former president and then descending unannounced with numerous agents?”
Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman outline the broad timeline in the WSJ:
- The controversy began after Mr. Trump left office, when the National Archives and Records Administration reached out to his team to ask for what it thought were missing records. All official documents are required to be turned over under the Watergate-era Presidential Records Act.
- The Archives in January retrieved 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago.
- The boxes contained some documents archives officials described only as “classified national security information,” prompting them to refer the matter to the Justice Department for investigation.
- Aides to Mr. Trump have said they had been cooperating with the department to get the matter settled. The former president even popped into the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago, shaking hands. “I appreciate the job you’re doing,” he said, according to a person familiar with the exchange. “Anything you need, let us know.”
- Five days later, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran received an email from Mr. Bratt, the chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section, who oversees investigations involving classified information.
- “We ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice,” according to what was read to The Wall Street Journal over the phone.
- Corcoran wrote back, “Jay, thank you. I write to acknowledge receipt of this letter. With best regards, Evan.” By the next day, according to a person familiar with the events, a larger lock was placed on the door. It was the last communication between the men until Monday’s search of Mar-a-Lago, according to the person.
- On June 22, the Trump Organization, the name for Mr. Trump’s family business, received a subpoena for surveillance footage from cameras at Mar-a-Lago. That footage was turned over, according to an official.
- On a sunny Monday morning, Aug. 8, a new set of agents arrived and began a search for documents at around 9 a.m. The warrant, signed by a judge in Palm Beach County, refers to the Presidential Records Act and possible violation of law over handling of classified information, according to Christina Bobb, a lawyer for the former president. The warrant hasn’t been made public by Mr. Trump nor has the inventory of documents retrieved by the government.
Why would the magistrate judge sign such a warrant? James Freeman provides answers via Rafael Olmeda in a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The U.S. magistrate judge who signed off on the warrant allowing the FBI to search Donald Trump’s Palm Beach home recently took himself off the former president’s defamation lawsuit against political rival Hillary Clinton and critic Adam Schiff.
Bruce Reinhart is a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the bench in 2018 by the judges of the Southern District of Florida, a body of up to 18 jurists appointed by the president. Last March, when Trump sued Clinton over her claims that he was compromised by Russia, Reinhart drew the case and held onto it for a couple of months before recusing himself without explanation.
“He was actually wonderful,” said Peter Tiktin, who is representing Trump in the lawsuit. “I liked him because he was pretty sharp and seemed to be fair to both sides.”
At least two other judges have removed themselves from the case, which is pending a defense motion to dismiss, Tiktin said.
Tiktin said he suspects Reinhart had little choice but to sign the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, but the attorney reserved his criticism for the FBI agents who sought the warrant, not the judge who signed it. “I think he felt it was the right thing that he needed to do, even though it was the wrong thing for the FBI to do,” he said.
Maybe this judge really is wonderful, concedes Mr. Freeman.
But on top of all the questions about the need for an unprecedented search of a former president’s home, there is also the need for an explanation of why he had to recuse himself from a case between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton but not from a case pitting Mr. Trump against the Biden administration.
Read more in Who Benefits from and Orchestrated the Trump Raid?
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