A lawyer who sued to unseal the bombshell search warrant used by the FBI to search Anthony Weiner’s laptop for emails tied to Hillary Clinton says he’s “appalled” at the lack of evidence in the document that was released Tuesday.
After reading the court documents, E. Randol Schoenberg, the Los Angeles-based lawyer better known for his efforts to recover looted Holocaust art, said he was stunned that there was no smoking gun in the request for the warrant won by FBI Director James Comey.
“There’s nothing in this search warrant application that would indicate that it would find anything aside from what they’d already seen,” Schoenberg said, “which means there was never any probable cause.”
As the Forward reported last week, Schoenberg’s interest in unsealing the search warrant and the application filed to obtain it stemmed from suspicions that the FBI may not have established probable cause to search Weiner’s laptop, as required under the Fourth Amendment.
He believes FBI Director James Comey’s letter informing Congress of his decision to investigate the laptop for new information in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server markedly impacted the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
“This is the government announcing something on the eve of the election mistakenly and changing the outcome of the election,” he told the Forward after a judge heard arguments regarding the release of the search warrant last week.
For Schoenberg, the unsealed documents confirmed his suspicions.
“You’ll have to get the FBI or the judge to explain why they thought there’d be anything different,” he said.
The search warrant affidavit, in the section establishing probable cause, dwelled on the FBI’s past investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server. While portions of text are redacted in that section, primarily appearing to be names and dates — with the exception of an entire redacted paragraph — it is clear the FBI’s argument for investigating Weiner’s laptop rested on the argument that email addresses listed at Clinton’s private server communicated with accounts used on the laptop on a “daily basis.”
“A complete forensic analysis and review of the Subject Laptop will also allow the FBI to determine if there is any evidence of computer intrusions into the Subject Laptop, and to determine if classified information was accessed by unauthorized users or transferred to any other unauthorized systems,” the section concluded.
The search warrant, application, affidavit and return are available to the public through the Southern District of New York. The Court denied the Forward’s request to print images of the documents.
After the first hearings in the case, Schoenberg discussed the action he would like to see follow a revelation that the warrant application contained improprieties in establishing probable cause, saying that such a revelation should prompt questioning about the source of information regarding potentially incriminating content on the laptop. He suggested that source, given ties between the FBI and President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign, might be worth further investigation.
“I would hope that if it really raises more questions, that people will start asking those questions, whether it’s the press, or a congressional committee,” he said. “They do have an inspector general type position in the Department of Justice that looks into internal affairs.”
“I don’t know if there are any next steps for me,” Schoenberg said, asked if he intended to pursue further action over the warrant.
“I think director Comey has a lot to answer for,” he said.