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.
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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,…