Trump-Appointed Judge Handling Former President’s Lawsuit Over FBI Raid
DALLAS, TEXAS - AUGUST 06: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC held at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. CPAC began in 1974, and is a conference that brings together and hosts conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders in discussing current events and future political agendas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Brandon Bell via Getty Images

A judge appointed by former President Donald Trump is handling his lawsuit against the government over documents and other materials seized in an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon of the Southern District of Florida, issued an order Tuesday requesting clarification from Trump’s legal team on what “precise relief” he is seeking in the suit. The judge also asks why Trump believes that her court is the proper venue for the case, as well as other questions, according to Politico.

The judge handling Trump’s civil suit was nominated by the former president to fill the seat in May 2020. The Senate confirmed her to the bench in November of that year in a 56-21 vote. Prior to her nomination, Cannon worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida from 2013 to 2020.

Trump sued the federal government on Monday, requesting the court appoint a special master to oversee the FBI audit of the materials seized at Mar-a-Lago. The lawsuit also requested a detailed list of the items removed and the immediate return of any items taken that were outside the scope of the search warrant. The FBI has admitted to erroneously taking several of Trump’s passports during the raid.

Cannon’s Tuesday order asks Trump’s legal team for clarification on five aspects of the suit. The judge gave Trump’s team until Friday to respond.

A group of roughly two dozen FBI agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago on the morning of August 8 while Trump was away in New York. The agents brought a search warrant signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. Before his appointment to the federal bench, Reinhart was a federal prosecutor and, later, served as a defense attorney for employees of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Reinhart’s political donations — including to former President Barack Obama in 2008 and to Republican Jeb Bush during his 2016 presidential run — have raised questions from critics over the judge’s ability to be fair. He also recused himself earlier this year from a RICO lawsuit Trump filed against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and others.

Reinhart did not give a reason for his recusal except to cite subsection 455 under Title 28 of the U.S. Code.

On Monday, Reinhart ordered the Department of Justice to provide the court with a copy of the search warrant affidavit with redactions for potential release to the public. Reinhart’s order was in answer to requests from multiple news organizations and watchdog groups. The judge partially defended his decision to sign off on the search warrant in the order, writing, “The Court issued a search warrant for the Premises after finding probable cause that evidence of multiple federal crimes would be found at the Premises.”

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