Two weeks ago, the FBI executed a search warrant at the former president’s private club to retrieve government property wrongfully retained after American voters sent Donald Trump packing. Since then, we’ve seen conservative group Judicial Watch sue to gain access to the search documents, followed by every major media outlet in the country piling on to successfully kick loose the warrant, inventory, and soon a redacted version of the underlying affidavit.
What we haven’t seen is Donald Trump’s lawyers do anything at all besides yell on TV and make wild accusations that the FBI planted evidence. But last week Fox News’s Laura Ingraham seems to have lit a fire under Team Trump, so now we’re getting a “major motion pertaining to the Fourth Amendment.”
As usual, the former president is vague on exactly which statutes the “scammers” supposedly violated. Nor is he clear how this grievous wrong will be vindicated. But he’s sure that his rights, “together with the rights of all Americans, have been violated at a level rarely seen before in our Country.” And he’s not going to put up with it!
Trump’s lawyer Lindsey Halligan, whose primary practice area appears to be landlord-tenant disputes, promised that Trump’s illustrious legal team was taking the matter seriously — if not expeditiously — but said she was “not going to talk about it until it’s actually filed.”
Dr. Gina has neither a medical degree nor a degree in psychology, and she’s not a licensed therapist. She does have a PhD in human and organization systems from an online university, though, and she did write a book claiming Trump was “the most sound-minded person to ever occupy the White House.” So you know this conversation was on the highest level all ways ’round.
James Trusty, a former federal prosecutor and one of Trump’s only attorneys with relevant experience, was more specific on Fox this weekend.
“The Fourth Amendment requires particularity. It requires narrowness to the intrusion on the person’s home,” he said, going on to describe the warrant as authorizing “the functional equivalent of a general search.”
How fun for Fox viewers to discover that civil liberties are good, actually!
“We’re going to come out swinging and say, look, you know, this cannot be just with a wink and a nod from DOJ that we are supposed to trust them,” he went on. “Under these circumstances, we’re going to have to get court involved, judicial intervention at the District Court level, to get somebody in the mix here that can help vindicate the Fourth Amendment rights of the president.”
Simply as a matter of linear time, it is already too late for the former president’s legal team to “come out swinging.” But if he wants to file a Rule 41 motion for the return of property, as his former lawyer John Eastman did recently, he may have a bit of a bit of a problem since the FBI went in there to seize government property wrongly retained, and most of the stuff taken doesn’t belong to him.
In fact, as Politico notes, while Trump threw a massive online tantrum about agents seizing his three passports, he appears to have been unaware that they were even taken and only alerted to the fact when the FBI’s filter team flagged them as improperly seized and returned them.
In later comments to conservative host Mark Levin, Trusty elaborated on his theme of government overreach and promised to seek a special master to intervene to protect documents which are attorney-client privileged, although it appears that the Department is already employing its own filter team. The irony of a lawyer going on television to broadcast Trump’s legal strategy while complaining that the government is illegally prying into his Trump’s legal strategies appears to be lost on Trusty. But his client appears to be far more concerned with what goes on in front of the camera than in the actual courtroom.
And PS, while Trusty promised Levin that he would be filing “within hours,” as of this writing, nothing has hit the docket.
United States v. Sealed Search Warrant [Docket via Court Listener]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.