The Trump affidavit: Four conclusions on guilt and evidence

Reading the unredacted portions of the affidavit and appendices which the FBI used to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, leads to some initial conclusions:

The affidavit contains sufficient factual basis for Magistrate Judge Reinhardt to find probable cause to issue a search warrant. The standard for issuing a search warrant is very low, and any federal or magistrate judge would have issued a warrant based on the unredacted information contained in the affidavit. So, Magistrate Judge Reinhardt should not be criticized for his decision to issue the warrant.

The affidavit and the appendices seem exceptionally broad and virtually unlimited. It excludes rooms at the Mar-a-Lago complex used by third parties — guests and members of the club — but extends to virtually every other area where boxes could be stored. The search warrant itself also seems, to me, to be overly broad and inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of “particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.” 

The actual search itself may even have exceeded the terms of the warrant, if it is true that it extended to Mrs. Trump’s personal closet and other private areas, absent evidence that relevant material was stored there.

Most importantly, the unredacted portions of the affidavit do not seem to justify the decision of the Justice Department — as distinguished from the decision of the judge — to seek a warrant, instead of pursuing the subpoena route. There was probable cause for obtaining a search warrant early in the year, yet none was sought. And even when the search warrant was obtained, it was not executed for two days, thus suggesting the absence of real urgency. 

It is precisely because search warrants are so easy to obtain that Attorney General Merrick Garland correctly stated that the Justice Department should seek them only when there is no other reasonable option. The unredacted portions of the affidavit do not seem to meet Garland’s own standard.

Finally, the unredacted portions of the affidavit suggest there may be enough evidence to seek and obtain the indictment of former President Trump. 

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