TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The federal magistrate judge who signed off on the warrant that allowed federal agents to search former President Donald Trump's Florida residence once drew scrutiny for switching from his job as a federal prosecutor to working as a defense attorney on behalf of individuals connected to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The judge, known for his "meticulous" nature, is also well-respected within the Palm Beach legal community and had once worked in the Justice Department's public integrity section. He had contributed to both Democrat and Republican candidates.
Trump lawyer Christina Bobb told POLITICO that magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart signed off on the warrant and that agents removed about a dozen boxes of materials from the property. Bobb was said to be present at the time the FBI conducted the search of Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach.
Reinhart's decision to grant the FBI's warrant request to search Trump's resort has sparked a firestorm among Republicans, who have decried what they call the "weaponization" of the Department of Justice.
But one local prosecutor described Reinhart - who has been a magistrate judge since 2018 - as "well respected" within the Palm Beach County legal community. Reinhart is married to Circuit Judge Carolyn Bell, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who is now a senator.
"He's a former prosecutor and a defense attorney and he's also known for being meticulous," said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat was who elected state attorney but who also once worked for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.
"He's not going to make a snap judgment," Aronberg added.
Reinhart could not be reached for comment.
Magistrate judges are not appointed by the president but instead are appointed by district judges. Their duties can include dealing with bond hearings, handling technical issues in civil cases and signing off on whether to authorize a search warrant.
Reinhart, who earned his law degree from University of Pennsylvania and also graduated from Princeton, worked for the Treasury Department, the public integrity section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and spent more than 11 years as an assistant United States attorney. During that time he handled more than 100 grand jury investigations including cases involving health care fraud, public corruption and tax fraud, according to a biography of Reinhart posted by the private law firm where he worked for about six years.
He worked as a federal prosecutor until Jan. 1, 2008, when a day later he became a defense attorney representing employees of Epstein, according to a 2018 story by the Miami Herald. According to the Herald, the employees included pilots for Epstein, his scheduler and a woman who had been described by some of Epstein's victims as his sex slave. Epstein committed suicide in a Manhattan federal jail in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.
The Herald also reported that in 2011, Reinhart was named in a lawsuit where he was accused of violating Justice Department policies by representing the employees. Reinhart denied the allegations and said he did not participate in Epstein's criminal case and did not learn any confidential information while working as a prosecutor.
Law 360 reported in June that Reinhart agreed to a request by Google that the tech giant be awarded attorney's fees after the tech company prevailed in a lawsuit that alleged Google had blacklisted a website because the site was owned by conservatives.
Reinhart did not rule in the underlying lawsuit but instead adjudicated a dispute over legal fees. Law 360 reported Reinhart did decrease the fee amount from Google wanted from more than $200,000 to slightly more than $145,000.
Federal campaign finance records show that Reinhart in 2008 donated $1,000 to President Barack Obama's presidential campaign and $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee. He had also donated $500 to former Florida Republican Gov Jeb Bush in 2016 when he was running for president.
State records show that over several election cycles, Reinhart donated $4,550 to a handful of candidates, including Aronberg as well as candidates running for judge, state attorney, public defender and a Democrat who ran for the Florida House.