The Potluck

Judge denies Reformer motion to unseal Mike Lindell search warrant

By: - November 23, 2022 1:37 pm

Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, speaking at a campaign rally held by U.S. President Donald Trump at the Target Center on Oct. 10, 2019 in Minneapolis. Mike Lindell says the FBI seized his cell phone at a Mankato Hardee’s on Tuesday. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied a motion brought by the Minnesota Reformer and journalist Tony Webster seeking to unseal court documents related to a search warrant served on Minnesota pillow mogul and prominent election denier Mike Lindell.

The Reformer and Webster filed the motion together in September, shortly after Lindell’s phone was seized by F.B.I. agents in Mankato in a case related to identity theft and intentional damage to a protected computer. Lindell is under investigation for his connections to a case in which the government alleges a Colorado county clerk tampered with voting machines, according to the New York Times.

The court filing by the Reformer and Webster argued the public has a First Amendment right to the documents, especially given that Lindell has made a civil claim arguing the government has abused its authority. The Reformer and Webster also argued the government doesn’t have a compelling reason to keep the documents private given the search warrant was already executed.

Federal authorities said unsealing the search warrant would comprise an on-going investigation and “harm the recognized privacy, reputational, and due process interests of various individuals.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung agreed with the Reformer and Webster that there is a strong public interest in election integrity and public corruption — which “creates a greater public interest in obtaining the search warrant materials than there would be in a typical case” — but ruled the government’s need to keep the search warrant materials sealed outweighed that interest.

Leung did consider whether a redacted version could be released but ultimately agreed with the Department of Justice that doing so would be impractical without harming the department’s investigation.

Leung wrote in his decision that the search warrant materials are extensive and include “tremendous details with significant specificity,” including information obtained through confidential informants and recordings.

However, Leung did side with the Reformer and Webster in ordering the unsealing of the court’s docket sheet identifying the documents filed in the case, subject to proposed redactions from the U.S. Department of Justice. It is currently unavailable to the public.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.