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Trump’s Attorneys Criticize ‘Heavily Redacted’ Warrant Affidavit, Fail to Mention the Actual Law Cited in Support of Mar-a-Lago Search

A photo shows Donald Trump pointing.

Donald Trump points during a speech on July 26, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

Attorneys for Donald Trump filed a 12-page document late Friday to support a request for a federal district court judge to oversee the fruits of a search warrant executed at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club and residence earlier this month.

Several sets of court papers submitted by the federal government cite entirely different statutes as grounds for the search than those referenced by Trump’s attorneys.

The Friday filing by Trump’s legal team argues that U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee, has jurisdiction to oversee the dispute despite the underlying warrant being signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart.

Under an order from Reinhart, a redacted version of the affidavit that buttressed the warrant and a number of other documents related to the so-called “warrant package” were released on Friday.

Trump’s attorneys asserted that Reinhart’s involvement in the release of the “heavily redacted” affidavit has now “largely concluded.” They also opined that Reinhart’s overall involvement in the proceeding as a whole “is essentially over” and that Cannon is able to step in.

“The relief Movant requests is uniquely within the power of a district judge and cannot be provided by a magistrate judge,” the filing indicates. “The ancillary requests raised in the Motion also meet the standard for this Court to exercise its ancillary jurisdiction.”

Specifically, the document cites the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, to maintain that federal law “does not permit magistrate judges to rule on requests for injunctive relief” such as those requested by Trump’s attorneys.

The filing then airs the ex-President’s repeated grievances about the fateful search and seizure. The document again characterized Trump and his attorneys as having engaged in “months of cooperation . . . in compliance with the Presidential Records Act” and complains that agents “cracked a personal safe belonging to President Trump.”

The document repeatedly characterizes the dispute as having emanated from the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2209, which the filing claims is “not a criminally-enforceable statute.”

Counsel for the former head of state then criticized the blacked-out document released on Friday (citations omitted):

The Redacted Affidavit underscores why this Motion should be granted, as it provides almost no information that would allow Movant to understand why the raid took place, or what was taken from his home. The few lines that are unredacted raise more questions than answers. For instance, Paragraph 3 states, in pertinent part, as one of the bases for probable cause, that there “are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain[ing] at the PREMISES.” This provides the deeply troubling prospect that President Trump’s home was raided under a pretense of a suspicion that Presidential records were on his property – even though the Presidential Records Act is not a criminally-enforceable statute.

The filing arguably employs a sleight-of-hand as to the actual gravamen of the action. The issue — at least from the government’s perspective — is the Espionage Act, a statute which is criminally enforceable. The laws cited by the government in support of the warrant were 18 U.S.C. §§ 793 (or, more specifically, §793(e)), 2071, and 1519, according to several court documents.

Those three statutes appear nowhere in Friday’s filing.  Nor is there any mention of the Espionage Act by that name.

In an earlier letter sent before the warrant was executed, Trump’s counsel tried to identify an entirely different statutes yet — 18 U.S.C. § 1924(a) — as the purported locus of the contention.

Friday’s filing re-ups Trump’s earlier requests for relief from Judge Cannon using this verbiage:

Movant requests two categories of relief in the present proceeding. First, Movant seeks an order directing the appointment of a Special Master to oversee the review of materials seized from Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022 and enjoining the Government from engaging in any further review of those materials. Second, Movant requests an order directing the Government to provide a more detailed account of the materials seized from on August 8, 2022, and to return any seized items that fall outside the scope of the Search Warrant.

The appointment of a special master is not uncommon in cases that involve attorney-client privilege.  Here, however, the privilege purportedly attached to the documents appears to be some form of executive privilege.  The government has asserted in other documents that Trump cannot assert executive privilege against current executive branch agencies, particularly the National Archives and Records Administration, as a matter of law.  Executive privilege is generally asserted against other branches of government, such as Congressional inquiries.

The document indicates that a formal summons in the matter will be served on the U.S. Attorney’s Office in coming days.

The case is styled as Trump v. United States in the Southern District of Florida.

Read the Friday filing in its entirety here:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.