- A judge rejected MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's request for DOJ to return his seized cellphone.
- The judge cited an appeals court decision against Trump in his lawsuit over the Mar-a-Lago search.
- Trump appointed Judge Eric Tostrud, who denied Lindell's bid to get his phone back.
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Just a day after an appeals court cleared the Justice Department to review classified records seized from Mar-a-Lago, the decision proved a setback not only for former President Donald Trump but also for one of his most prominent allies.
In Minnesota, a federal judge on Thursday rejected MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's request for the return of his cellphone, which federal agents seized last week in the drive-through line of a fast-food restaurant. The ruling from Judge Eric Tostrud came only two days after Lindell filed a lawsuit demanding that the Justice Department return his cellphone and refrain from accessing data on the device.
Ruling against Lindell, Tostrud did not have to look far to find legal precedent backing up his conclusion that the phone should remain in the Justice Department's hands. A Trump appointee confirmed in 2018, Tostrud cited the recent decision from the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that allowed the Justice Department to resume its review of about 100 classified records seized from the former president's South Florida home and private club.
In that decision, three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overruled a lower court order barring the Justice Department from reviewing the classified materials. The 11th Circuit panel fully embraced the Justice Department's argument that a further delay in its review of the classified records could cause "irreparable harm" to the government and public.
"It is self-evident that the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of the classified records did not result in 'exceptionally grave damage to the national security,'" the 11th Circuit judges wrote.
"Ascertaining that," they added, "necessarily involves reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods are compromised."
The 11th Circuit panel included two Trump appointees — Judges Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant — along with Judge Robin Rosenbaum, an Obama appointee. In addition to sympathizing with the Justice Department's national security concerns, the panel appeared at a loss for why Trump needed access to the classified records seized from his South Florida estate.
"For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings," the judges wrote.
Rarely does an appeals court decision so rapidly grow legs that it is cited in a separate case within 24 hours. But Tostrud found use for it as he presides over just one of the lawsuits Trump and his allies have filed seeking to limit the Justice Department's access to evidence.
Last week, Lindell said that FBI agents swarmed his car while he was in the drive-through line at a Hardee's and presented him with a warrant for his phone. In interviews and on his online television show, Lindell said the agents asked about his ties to Tina Peters, a county clerk in Colorado who is facing state charges related to an alleged effort to obtain data from voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. Peters is accused of engineering a scheme she believed would prove a long-debunked conspiracy theory that Dominion's machines were used to steal the 2020 election from Trump.
The seizure of Lindell's phone signaled interest at the federal level in the accusations against Peters. In Lindell, the search warrant targeted one of the highest-profile promoters of pro-Trump disinformation about the 2020 election.
Lindell's lawsuit followed a similar move by John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who helped advise Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election results. Eastman filed a lawsuit for the return of his cellphone after FBI agents seized it in a restaurant parking lot in New Mexico. A federal judge rejected his bid for the immediate return of his phone, and the Justice Department later obtained another search warrant to review the contents of the device.