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Trump passports taken in FBI search of Mar-a-Lago returned to former president

DOJ opposes unsealing Trump search affidavit
Justice Department opposes unsealing Trump FBI search warrant affidavit 01:36

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

The source said the passports were given back to Trump after they were discovered by a "filter team," a group of federal investigators who screen the materials seized during the execution of a search warrant for privileged or extraneous information.

The FBI said in a statement that when executing search warrants, the bureau "follows search and seizure procedures ordered by courts, then returns items that we do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes."

In a post around 1:30 p.m. ET Monday on Truth Social, the former president's social media platform, Trump claimed the FBI "stole" three passports, one of which he said was expired, when agents conducted the search of Mar-a-Lago last week.

"This was an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our country," he wrote. "Third World!"

Several hours later, Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, shared on Twitter an email the former president's lawyers received from Jay Bratt, a top Justice Department official, alerting them that the passports had been taken and would be returned.

"We have learned that the filter agents 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 pickup at WFO at 2 pm today," Bratt wrote, referring to the bureau's Washington field office.

The email was sent to Trump's lawyers at 12:49 p.m. ET Monday, before 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 chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at the Justice Department.

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

The warrant and accompanying documents also indicated the president is under investigation for possible violations of three federal statutes, including the Espionage Act, and specifically the section of that law involving gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.

Since the FBI's search, Trump has repeatedly criticized the Justice Department and bureau, claiming without evidence 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 been complying with the government's requests related to the records, but CBS News learned that weeks before the search, one of Trump's lawyers signed a document certifying that all classified materials had been removed from Mar-a-Lago. The certification came after a June 3 meeting between Justice Department officials and Trump's lawyers at the South Florida property, and a grand jury subpoena was also issued in the spring, according to two sources.

After the former president's attorney certified all classified materials had been retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, investigators learned there may still be more there.

Trump has also claimed some of the documents taken by the FBI were protected under attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, "which they knowingly should not be taken." The reference by Bratt to filter agents, though, suggests the FBI is working to ensure federal prosecutors do not process privileged material outside the scope of the search warrant.

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