Fact check: Magistrate judge who signed off on Mar-a-Lago search represented Epstein associates

The claim: Jeffrey Epstein’s former lawyer was the judge who signed off on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant

As part of a federal investigation into whether former President Donald Trump illegally removed classified documents from the White House, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart signed a warrant in early August allowing FBI agents to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

In the days and weeks after the search, many people used social media platforms to share information – and misinformation – about the individuals involved.

A Sept. 17 Facebook post, shared more than 700 times in 10 days, claimed that Reinhart previously represented Jeffery Epstein, the disgraced financier accused of sex trafficking.

"If you think it's a coincidence that Jeffrey Epstein's lawyer became a federal judge and that very same judge, of thousands of judges, was the person to sign off on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant you haven't been paying attention," the post reads.

While Reinhart was the judge who signed off on the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, he was not a former Epstein lawyer. He did, however, represent some Epstein associates, according to the Miami Herald.

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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.

Documents related to the search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., are photographed Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart agreed to make public documents, including the warrant's cover sheet, the Justice Department's motion to seal the documents and the judge's order requiring them to be sealed.
Documents related to the search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., are photographed Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart agreed to make public documents, including the warrant's cover sheet, the Justice Department's motion to seal the documents and the judge's order requiring them to be sealed.

Reinhart did not represent Epstein

In 2019, Reinhart told the Miami Herald he represented some employees of Epstein, during his tenure as a defense attorney, but never Epstein himself.

In early 2008, Reinhart left his position as a federal prosecutor and began working in the private sector specializing in white-collar criminal defense. It was at that time that he represented some Epstein employees, including pilots for Epstein, his scheduler and a woman described as Epstein's sex slave by some victims, Politico reported.

Fact check: Altered image of Bruce Reinhart, Ghislaine Maxwell circulates after FBI search of Mar-A-Lago

Reinhart left private practice in 2018. Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while he was awaiting trial for sex trafficking.

Case assigned randomly to Reinhart

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

He was appointed to the court by judges on the federal district court, after a selection panel of lawyers and community members narrowed the field to five finalists, according to a press release from the district court.

Magistrate judges handle an array of judicial tasks, including issuing warrants, conducting preliminary proceedings and hearing some low-level cases, according to the United States Courts website.

Fact check: Bruce Reinhart, who approved FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, was not appointed by Trump

The judges are assigned those cases at random; any one of the district's three magistrate judges could have approved and signed the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, CBS News reported.

USA TODAY has previously debunked claims about how Reinhart was appointed and an altered image of the judge that spread online after he signed the Mar-a-Lago warrant.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Epstein’s former lawyer was the judge who signed off on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. Reinhart told the Miami Herald he represented Epstein employees, not Epstein.

Our fact-check sources:

Contributing: Sudiksha Kochi

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, Bruce Reinhart was not Jeffrey Epstein's lawyer