A letter from Huma Abedin‘s attorney is raising new questions about whether the FBI broke federal rules when agents searched her emails obtained from her now estranged husband Anthony Weiner‘s computer. The letter from Abedin’s attorneys, obtained by LawNewz.com, indicates that neither Abedin nor Weiner received a copy of the warrant used to search the electronic data. The letter, addressed to Federal Judge Kevin Castel, was in response to a request by a California attorney who is demanding that the search warrant and search warrant application be released by the FBI to the public.
Ms. Abedin is unable to evaluate the application [to release the warrant publicly] because the Government has never provided her with a copy of the warrant it reportedly obtained to search certain e-mails — e-mails that Ms. Abdedin was not aware were on Mr. Weiner’s computer until October 28th, when Director Comey wrote his first letter to Congress. We understand that Mr. Weiner has likewise not been provided with a copy of his material.
Interestingly, and perhaps strategically, the letter goes on to cite the federal rules of criminal procedure which require “the officer executing the warrant” to “give a copy of the warrant and a receipt for the property taken to the person from whom, or from whose premises, the property was taken or leave a copy of the warrant and receipt at the place where the officer took the property.”
So the question is: if Abedin and Weiner never received a copy of the warrant did the FBI violate these rules? If so, what happens?
“There are times when the government will request permission to delay providing a copy of the warrant. When I did this as a federal prosecutor though it was because we wanted to keep the search a secret or make it look like there was a break in. I can’t fathom here why they would have sought to delay providing the warrant itself or the inventory,” Bill Thomas, a former federal prosecutor told LawNewz.com. “The only other reason that I can think the warrant was not provided is that perhaps the property was not seized from Anthony Weiner or Huma Abedin. If that were the case, there would be no requirement to give either of them a copy of the search warrant or inventory, unless it were seized from their premises. ”
The FBI has been tight-lipped regarding the details of the investigation so we don’t know exactly where the items were seized. However, a person familiar with the investigation told The New York Times that in September, F.B.I. agents seized Weiner’s laptop as well as his iPad and cellphone. That would seem to indicate that the items were indeed taken from the Abedin/Weiner property.
Page Pate, a criminal defense attorney who deals with high-profile federal cases, further explained how the process works.
“The only requirement is that a copy be left. Normally, that’s accomplished by handing one to the person at the house,” Pate told LawNewz.com, adding that if neither Abedin nor Weiner were at the home/location where the warrant was served than the FBI didn’t need to personally give them a copy.
According to experts, lack of compliance with that rule can, in rare situations, lead to suppression of the evidence seized, or perhaps discipline of agents involved. In November, FBI Director James Comey said that after reviewing Abedin’s emails that “we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July.” Comey held a July press conference announcing that “no reasonable prosecutor” would pursue charges against Hillary Clinton.
LawNewz.com has reached out to both the FBI and DOJ for comment, but they have yet to respond.