Can the FBI Get Away With Getting Trump Team Emails? by Andrew P. Napolitano

Andrew Napolitano argues that the Mueller investigation’s acquisition of the Trump transition team’s emails was legal. From Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

Within hours of his victory in last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump dispatched his lawyers to establish a nonprofit corporation to manage his transition from private life to the presidency. This was done pursuant to a federal statute that provides for taxpayer-funded assistance to the newly elected — but not yet inaugurated — president. The statutory term for the corporation is the presidential transition team, or PTT.

In addition to paying the PTT’s bills, the General Services Administration, which manages all nonmilitary federal property, provided the PTT with government computers, software and a computer service provider. During the course of the PTT’s existence, the folks who worked for it sent or received tens of thousands of emails. The PTT ceased to exist upon Trump’s inauguration, and a receiver was hired to wind it down.

Last weekend, a lawyer for the receiver revealed a letter he sent to Congress complaining that special counsel Robert Mueller — who is investigating whether there was any agreement between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that resulted in the now-well-known efforts by Russian intelligence to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — dispatched FBI agents to the GSA looking for copies of all the PTT’s emails and that the GSA surrendered them.

How did this happen?

When the FBI is looking for documents or tangible things, it has several legal tools available. They range in their disruptive nature from a simple request to a grand jury subpoena to a judicially authorized search warrant.

The FBI request is the easiest for the government, and if FBI agents ask you for something and you give it to them, you cannot later be heard to complain that your privacy rights regarding the things you surrendered were violated. If they seize your documents pursuant to a subpoena or a warrant, they normally get to use what they have seized.

The issue becomes more complex when the FBI comes calling for documents of yours that are legally in the hands of a custodian — such as your physician, lawyer, banker or accountant. In the case of Trump’s PTT and Mueller’s wish for all PTT emails, the sought-after data — the electronic copies of all the PTT’s emails — were in custody of the GSA.

To continue reading: Can the FBI Get Away With Getting Trump Team Emails?

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