Politics

Bruce Reinhart, the Magistrate Judge Who Approved the Mar-a-Lago Search

Ever since the F.B.I. searched the Mar-a-Lago estate of former President Donald J. Trump for classified documents, the federal judge in Florida who signed the warrant authorizing the move, Bruce E. Reinhart, has been thrust into the spotlight.

His suggestion on Thursday that he was inclined to unseal parts of the affidavit used to justify the search warrant once the government proposed redactions only intensified the scrutiny.

Judge Reinhart has already faced a torrent of criticism from Republicans and become the subject of disinformation and online attacks, many of them anti-Semitic. His approval of the search warrant, right-wing critics contend, was a partisan attempt to harass a former president.

Prominent Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, quickly denounced Judge Reinhart for a political donation he had made to President Barack Obama in 2008. (He has also donated to Republicans, including the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, during his presidential campaign in 2015.)

But as a magistrate judge, Judge Reinhart made a decision typical of his responsibilities, according to legal experts, who say the job often supports district court judges with tasks like reviewing warrants.

More Coverage of the F.B.I. Search of Trump’s Home

  • Trump-F.B.I. Conflict: The Mar-a-Lago search was a dramatic moment after years of tumult between Mr. Trump and the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
  • Shifting Explanations: Mr. Trump and his allies have given often conflicting defenses of his retention of classified documents without addressing why he had kept them.
  • Trump’s Reaction: In the wake of the search, Mr. Trump has accused the nation’s justice system of being exactly what he tried to turn it into: a political weapon for a president.
  • Pence Speaks Out: In response to Republican outrage over the F.B.I.’s search, the former vice president called on members of his party to stop attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

He was sworn in as a magistrate judge for the Southern District of Florida in 2018.

After graduating from Princeton, he received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987.

From 1988 until 1994, he worked for the Justice Department’s public integrity section within its criminal division, according to court documents from over a decade ago. He then joined the Treasury Department to help draft policies for other agencies conducting criminal investigations.

He also served for 11 years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida.

His time there coincided with the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier who was accused of luring teenage girls to his Palm Beach mansion and sexually abusing them. Mr. Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid a lengthy prison sentence in a plea agreement the Justice Department later acknowledged showed “poor judgment.” Mr. Reinhart has denied participating in the investigation. Shortly after leaving the Justice Department in late 2008, he went into private practice, where he represented some of Mr. Epstein’s employees who had been accused of facilitating sex trafficking.

One of those clients was Sarah Kellen, who was accused of helping procure young girls for Mr. Epstein.

In court filings, lawyers for Mr. Epstein’s victims accused Mr. Reinhart of violating Florida bar rules. His involvement “gave the appearance” of currying favor with Mr. Epstein while working at the Justice Department in order to reap rewards with lucrative employment, a complaint said.

Paul G. Cassell, a lawyer representing the victims who lodged a complaint about Judge Reinhart’s involvement, declined to comment. Judge Reinhart did not respond to a request for comment.

In court filings, Mr. Reinhart denied that he had done anything improper, stating in a sworn affidavit that he had not participated in his office’s investigation of Mr. Epstein and had no special knowledge that would aid his defense of Ms. Kellen. The false accusations, he said, disparaged his character.

But Judge Reinhart’s critics immediately seized on his connection to Mr. Epstein, quickly inspiring disinformation about it.

Last week, in a segment on Fox News, a host showed a manipulated photo that appeared to show Judge Reinhart seated on a plane with Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s companion who had been convicted last year of aiding Mr. Epstein in sexually abusing minors.

(In 2019, Mr. Epstein was again charged in New York, but was found dead of apparent suicide in his cell.)

The host, Brian Kilmeade, said on Twitter a day later that the image “wasn’t real” and that the network was “showing a meme in jest.”

But all the scrutiny of Judge Reinhart has also prompted the local authorities to step up security. His synagogue canceled a Friday night Shabbat service last week in response to multiple antisemitic threats, and the police in his neighborhood said officers had intensified patrols near his house.

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