Questions grow about Trump raid after revelation of grand jury subpoena, extensive cooperation
Trump got spring grand jury subpoena, gathered documents, turned them over and allowed agents to search storage locker the FBI later raided.
Two months before his Florida home was raided by the FBI, former President Donald Trump secretly received a grand jury subpoena for classified documents belonging to the National Archives, and voluntarily cooperated by turning over responsive evidence, surrendering security surveillance footage and allowing federal agents and a senior Justice Department lawyer to tour his private storage locker, according to a half dozen people familiar with the incident.
While the cooperation was mostly arranged by his lawyers, Trump personally surprised the DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents who came to his Mar-a-Lago compound on June 3, greeting them as they came to pick up a small number of documents compliant with the subpoena, the sources told Just the News, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the visit was covered by grand jury secrecy.
The subpoena requested any remaining documents Trump possessed with any classification markings, even if they involved photos of foreign leaders, correspondence or mementos from his presidency.
Secret Service agents were also present and facilitated the visit, officials said.
Trump signaled his full cooperation, telling the agents and prosecutor, "Look, whatever you need let us know," according to two eyewitnesses. The federal team was surprised by the president's invitation and asked for an immediate favor: to see the 6-foot-by-10-foot storage locker where his clothes, shoes, documents and mementos from his presidency were stored at the compound.
Given Trump's instruction, the president's lawyers complied and allowed the search by the FBI before the entourage left cordially. Five days later, DOJ officials sent a letter to Trump's lawyers asking them to secure the storage locker with more than the lock they had seen. The Secret Service installed a more robust security lock to comply.
Around the same time, the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago, received a request for surveillance video footage covering the locker and volunteered the footage to federal authorities, sources disclosed.
The disclosure Wednesday to Just the News raised immediate new questions in legal and congressional circles about the necessity for the subsequent raid, including whether the judge who approved the warrant knew of the earlier cooperation.
“The more we learn, the more confusing this gets,” George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley told Fox News program Hannity. “….Did they relay this history to the magistrate? That, according to these sources, that the president had cooperated.
”I mean, the idea that he was subject to a subpoena, complied with a subpoena, didn't challenge it, voluntarily showed the storage room to the agents, followed their advice, secured it to meet their demands. All of that is hardly a basis for saying now we need to send in 40 FBI agents on a on a raid,” he added. “I mean, if the subpoena worked the first time, then presumably a second subpoena would work the second time if there were remaining documents.”
Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., told Just the News that Trump mentioned to her Tuesday night the prior cooperation, and that she viewed the raid as an effort at nullifying his future run for the presidency in 2024 if he chooses.
“Look, this is exactly what people, the public is seeing: a two-tiered justice system. This is impeachment 4,” she said, citing Trump‘s prior two impeachments and the January 6 hearings that preceded the raid.
The flurry of cooperation in June came months after Trump had already returned about 15 boxes of documents, many of them classified, at the request of the National Archives. Government officials have said the documents were mistakenly boxed up by the General Services Administration along with Trump's personal possessions from the White House and shipped to Mar-a -Lago.
After the subpoena was delivered in late May, federal authorities said they suspected there were more classified materials still left at Mar-a-Lago, and arranged the June 3 visit.
After mid-June, the government had no other official contacts with the president's lawyers until agents showed up unannounced on Monday and executed the search warrant, ousting the president's lawyers and staff and spending nine hours collecting evidence. Sources told Just the News they collected about 12 boxes of evidence.
U.S. officials who confirmed the June 3 voluntary visit and subpoena compliance, refused to say whether U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart was apprised of the full extent of Trump's compliance when he was asked to sign the unprecedented search warrant last Friday.
The FBI then waited three days after getting the judge's approval before executing the warrant, one of many oddities in the timetable.
Some officials said the extra time was used to assemble a team to raid Mar-a-Lago in the most incognito manner so the public wouldn't be alerted and while the former president was out of town.
The officials told Just the News the search warrant was sought after the FBI obtained some witness information and other evidence suggesting some classified documents may have still remained on the property after June, stored in locations such as a private safe Trump had in his residence, and that some of the storage locations may have been accessed in 2022.
The new revelations came the same day that new questions arose about Reinhart, the judge in the case.
Just the News obtained a court document showing that Reinhart — just six weeks before signing the warrant — recused himself from Trump's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in the Russia collusion scandal, citing concerns he couldn't be impartial.
Reinhart, appointed in 2018 as a federal magistrate in West Palm Beach, Fla., filed the recusal document on June 22, a few weeks after presiding over the start of the civil litigation.
"The undersigned Magistrate Judge, to whom the above-styled cause has been assigned, hereby recuses himself and refers the case to the Clerk of Court for reassignment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455," Reinhart wrote in his order of recusal in the Trump v. Clinton case.
You can read the document here:
The statute that the magistrate cited for his recusal states in part that a judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned" and then describes the various circumstances that could trigger such concerns.
They include "a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts" or prior work as a lawyer for a party involved in the case.
Reinhart's order did not specify the conflict or source of the concern prompting his recusal.
Trump's lawsuit accuses Clinton, Democrat allies and current and former government officials of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to falsely portray Trump as colluding with Russia during the 2016 election. The sweeping nature of the suit involves numerous parties and public figures.
The recusal filing emerges as numerous media reports have surfaced about the magistrate's prior work, including donations before he was judge to President Barack Obama and Jeb Bush and work for figures associated with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Daily Wire also raised questions about Reinhart's impartiality toward Trump, reporting that in a 2017 Facebook social post — a year before he was named a magistrate — he challenged the 45th president's moral character after Trump attacked the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon.
"I generally ignore the President-elect's tweets, but not this one," Reinhart posted, according to the Daily Wire. "John Lewis arguably has done more to 'make America great' than any living citizen. Last August, I took my son to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma so he could understand the kind of courage and sacrifice required to live in a democratic society. John Lewis embodies that spirit. Although I've never met him, he is one of my heroes.
"Thank you, Robert Reich, for saying what many of us feel, 'John Lewis is the conscience of America. Donald Trump doesn't have the moral stature to kiss John Lewis's feet.'
"Or, as Joseph Welch said to Joseph McCarthy, 'At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'"