U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart ruled Thursday that the Justice Department did not meet the burden of showing that the entire affidavit used to obtain a search warrant of former President Trump’s Florida residence should remain sealed.
Reinhart concluded at the end of the hour-plus hearing that “I believe — at least on my initial careful review of the affidavit — that there are portions that could be presumptively unsealed.”
He gave Justice Department lawyers until August 25th to file under seal their proposed redactions and justifications.
But don’t expect that to be the end of it, according to one former Justice Department lawyer.
“Federal magistrates are specialists in the Fourth Amendment,” former federal prosecutor Francey Hakes told Newsmax TV’s Greta Van Susteren on “The Record” Thursday. “Really, that’s all they do.”
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
Reinhart “knows exactly what the Fourth Amendment allows,” Hakes continued. “The fact that he signed the search warrant is surprising. It’s not surprising that he wants the Department of Justice to go back and redact the affidavit. He doesn’t want to be the one to make the decision.”
When Van Susteren put in that the redaction could have been done yesterday in chambers, Hakes replied, “I don’t think he wants to take ultimate responsibility. What I expect will happen is that the DOJ will overreact the affidavit — at least that’s what the judge will say — and then he’ll say he’s going to release more than the DOJ wants released, and then they’re going to appeal it to the district court. So this is nowhere near over.”
In other words, the more that the Justice Department redacts, the more time they’ll buy for themselves.
But the search itself was arguably unreasonable on its face in this case.
First of all, there’s no evidence to suggest that either the former president or his lawyers were in any manner uncooperative with federal authorities.
That cooperation usually came from Trump’s lawyers, but on at least one occasion, on June 3, the former president himself greeted the DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents at the entrance to Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach private club that Trump made his home.
As they left the estate with the few documents they’d collected, Trump reportedly indicated that he would continue to cooperate, telling the agents and prosecutor, "Look, whatever you need, let us know.”
Former Harvard Law professor and constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz appeared on Newsmax TV shortly after the August 8 raid and blasted the FBI's search.
"A raid is supposed to be a last resort," he told "Rob Schmitt Tonight" hours after the raid. "But this administration has used the weaponization of the justice system against its political enemies: to arrest people, deny them bail, used handcuffs, used all kinds of techniques that are not usually applied to American citizens."
Then there’s the scope of the search.
The FBI reportedly left Mar-a-Lago with 15 boxes of documents, and no attempt was made to search for specific items. The agents allegedly took every scrap of paper they came across, according to reports.
The outright ransacking suggests that DOJ lawyers didn’t know exactly what they were searching for, with the implication that another goal was at play.
Lawyer and GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told Newsmax that "the key here is the warrant ... clearly Democrats are searching for ways to make sure Trump doesn't run in 2024."
O'Connell, who’s also a regular Newsmax TV contributor, said that the search’s target makes this all the more egregious.
"The fact that an unannounced warrant was executed on a former president and likely future GOP presidential nominee is not only unprecedented but it's chilling," O'Connell said. "This is weaponization of law enforcement against the opposition party. The type of stuff we see in banana republics, not America."
The search warrant was executed by the same FBI that lied on four applications for FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. This was also the same FBI that pushed the legitimacy of the Steele dossier, knowing full well that it was little more than a work of fiction.
DOJ lawyers argued Thursday that release of the affidavit would compromise the investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified material.
Would that be the same “ mishandling of classified material,” for example, as using a private, nonsecure email server to send and receive classified State Department information and deleting 33,000 emails?
O’Connell is right. It has nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with preventing the 45th president from becoming the 47th president.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to Newsmax. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.