Magistrate had full authority to approve unprecedented search at Mar-a-Lago, legal scholars say


Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart had full authority to sign off on the search warrant for former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and didn’t need to kick this up to a supervising federal district judge despite its unprecedented nature, according to legal experts.

Never before had a search warrant been issued against a former president’s home until Monday, when more than 30 FBI agents stormed Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. According to reports, they were looking for confidential documents Mr. Trump reportedly took from the White House.

“It didn’t strike me as unusual. It would be a magistrate judge,” Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow and constitutional expert at the Manhattan Institute, said of the search warrant’s approval. “District judges tend not to get involved.”

It’s magistrate judges who are on call in districts when a search warrant needs to be approved — no matter what hours the search needs to be executed. Though, they do work under federally appointed judges.

Despite Judge Reinhart’s four years of experience in his position, he has come under scrutiny over this decision.

He criticized Mr. Trump in the past in social media posts, which began recirculating online after the raid. Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters said the magistrate judge should have recused from this matter because of his anti-Trump posts.

“He publicly tweeted personal criticism about President Trump’s character in 2017 before he became a magistrate judge in 2018. Magistrate Judge Reinhart just recused from a civil lawsuit from President Trump against Hillary Clinton six weeks ago,” said Mike Davis, president of the Article III Project. “How did his bias go away in the last six weeks?”

In one post, the judge said he “generally ignored” Mr. Trump’s tweets, but he responded to the former president’s criticism of the civil rights icon and late Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

“Donald Trump doesn’t have the moral stature to kiss John Lewis’s feet,” Judge Reinhart wrote on his Facebook page, according to Daily Wire.

The search warrant approval also led to threats against Judge Reinhart, according to USA Today, which reported his contact information had to be removed from the website for the U.S. District of Court for the Southern District of Florida.

“I hear he’s getting threats, that his information was taken down from the judicial directory, and he’s the object of vitriol from supporters of the former president,” said Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney, the newspaper reported.

The threats, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Mr. Shapiro, suggest the Justice Department should act quickly on this increasing problem, noting the protests that have been occurring outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices for three months since a leaked opinion revealed they would overturn the national right to abortion.

“I would hope the people who were poo-pooing the rest of the justices because they’re ideologically opposed will now see the shoe can be on the other foot,” Mr. Shapiro said.

A spokesperson from the Southern District of Florida refused to comment on the reported threats or Judge Reinhart’s past social media postings.

Tom Dupree, who served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President George W. Bush, told Fox News that he had argued before Judge Reinhart in the past, noting he had ruled in his favor, calling the judge a “thoughtful guy.”


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