In the age of Trump, the Republican party of “law and order” is fueling threats and violence against law enforcement on an unprecedented scale. On January 6, 2021, Donald Trump set in motion and then did nothing to stop the deadly assault on our nation’s Capitol. Most recently, after Republican politicians were quick to attack the Department of Justice over the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, supporters of the former president have targeted federal agents and even the judge who signed the warrant.
Here in Florida, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, used disparaging terms like “banana republic” to describe the search. At the time, they had no idea what they were talking about because the search warrant was secret. Now the entire country knows that Trump refused to return highly classified documents found during the search, long after he left office and after the government had repeatedly requested them.
Nevertheless, on Fox News, Rubio recklessly attacked the motives of U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the search warrant. “They found some Obama donor judge, not even a judge, a magistrate, to give them the search warrant,” Rubio said, the day after the raid. The senator is a lawyer. He knows better, and his words were highly misleading.
First, no one “found” Reinhart. His responsibilities include the review of all search warrant applications, no matter the topic or subject. Second, Reinhart is a United States magistrate judge. That is literally his title. To say he is “not even a judge” is ludicrous. Finally, Rubio’s worst insult was to call Reinhart an “Obama donor judge,” implying that Reinhart’s approval of the warrant was politically motivated.
As the Miami Herald has reported, while Reinhart long before his judicial appointment donated to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, he also donated to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. Of course, Rubio said nothing about Reinhart’s donation to Republican Bush.
Rubio’s attack unjustified
Rubio’s political attack on the judge was unjustified. As United States attorney for South Florida, I supervised Reinhart when he was a federal prosecutor. He is a consummate professional who would not allow politics to affect his judicial decisions. The lawyers who practice before him will likewise attest that his rulings are not political. U.S. magistrate judges are not politically appointed; they are selected by each district court based on merit, not politics. I am certain that our district court judges who chose Reinhart do not consider him an “Obama donor judge.”
Such spurious attacks on judges undermine public confidence in our system of justice. They discourage qualified attorneys from seeking judicial office. When he ran for president, Trump criticized the Indiana-born judge presiding over his Trump University fraud case as a “Mexican” judge. As president, Trump regularly complained about “Obama” judges. Unfortunately, six years later Rubio is following the example set by the man who derided him with insulting nicknames during the 2016 campaign.
Attacks like Rubio’s also inflame the violent faction of his party. Anti-Semitic slurs and threats against Reinhart and his family have followed, with one person writing, “I see a rope around his neck.” His temple even had to cancel services due to threats.
When I led the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we worked hard to ensure that politics remained separate from prosecutions. The Justice Department continually strives to avoid political influence. Yet Republican politicians are now hurling insults against the judge and law enforcement simply because a search warrant was necessary to retrieve highly classified materials that Trump refused to return.
National security threat
I worked with highly classified information when I was a federal prosecutor and know how wrong it is to have such classified information in a private home, much less a club with frequent visitors. The presence of highly classified material at Mar-a-Lago was a national security threat.
In 2016, Rubio warned America not to give “the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual” like Trump. These days, Rubio shows little concern for nuclear codes or classified information in the hands of Trump. Instead, he recently claimed that the search at Mar-a-Lago was a “ruse” by the Justice Department to gather evidence about Trump’s role in the assault on the Capitol. This is sadly what the once-proud party of “law and order” has become under the control of Trump.
Marcos Daniel Jiménez served as United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida from 2002-2005.