Trump passports seized in FBI search at Mar-a-Lago are returned to former president

Washington— Passports belonging to former President Donald Trump which were taken by the FBI during the look for conducted at his South Florida residence last week were returned to the former president, a law enforcement source confirmed to CBS News.

The source said the passports were returned to Trump after they were discovered by a “screening team”, a group of federal investigators who screen documents seized while executing a search warrant looking for privileged or superfluous information.

The FBI said in a statement that when executing search warrants, the office “follows court-ordered search and seizure procedures and then returns material that we do not need to retain for of law enforcement”.

In a post around 1:30 p.m. ET Monday on Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform, Trump claimed the FBI “stolen” three passports, one of which he said expired, when agents did the research of Mar-a-Lago last week.

“This was an attack on a political opponent on a level never seen before in our country,” he said. wrote. “Third World!”

A few hours later, Taylor Budowich, Trump’s spokesperson, shared on Twitter an email the former president’s lawyers received from Jay Bratt, a senior Justice Department official, warning them that the passports had been seized and would be returned.

“We have learned that screening officers have seized three passports belonging to President Trump, two expired and one being his active diplomatic passport. We are returning them and they will be ready for collection at WFO at 2 p.m. today,” wrote Bratt, referring to the bureau’s field office in Washington.

The email was sent to Trump’s attorneys at 12:49 p.m. ET Monday, ahead of the former president’s accusation that the FBI stole his passports. The law enforcement source also confirmed the accuracy of the email from Bratt, who is head of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Department of Justice.

During the search of Mar-a-Lago last week, FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents, including boxes containing files marked “secret”, “top secret”, “confidential” and “classified/ TS/SCI”, or top secret / compartmentalized sensitive information, according to search warrant and receipt of ownership unsealed by a federal magistrate judge in Florida on Friday.

The warrant and accompanying documents also said the president was under investigation for possible violations of three federal laws, including the Espionage Actand specifically the section of that law regarding the collection, transmission or loss of defense information.

Since the FBI search, Trump has repeatedly criticized the Justice Department and Bureau, claiming without evidence that it was a politically motivated attack targeting a likely challenger to President Biden in 2024.

On Friday, the former president claimed his legal team had complied with government requests for the records, but CBS News learned that weeks before the search, one of Trump’s attorneys signed a document certifying that all classified documents had been removed from Mar-a-Lago. The certification came after a June 3 meeting between Justice Department officials and Trump’s lawyers on the South Florida property, and a grand jury subpoena was also issued in the spring, two sources say. .

After the former president’s attorney certified that all classified documents had been recovered from Mar-a-Lago, investigators learned there may be even more.

Trump also has claims some of the documents seized by the FBI were protected by attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, “that they should not knowingly be forfeited”. Bratt’s reference to screening officers, however, suggests that the FBI is working to ensure that federal prosecutors do not process privileged documents outside the scope of the search warrant.

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