A law enforcement source confirmed that former president Donald Trump got back the passports which belong to him that were taken by the FBI during the search conducted at his South Florida residence. The passports were given back to Trump after they were discovered by a “filter team,” the source said, a group of federal investigators who screen the materials seized during the execution of a search warrant for privileged or extraneous information.
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,” the FBI said in a statement. The FBI took three passports, one of which he said was expired, when agents conducted the search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump claimed in a post on Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform. He wrote: “This was an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our country. Third World!”
A spokesman for Trump, Taylor Budowich, shared on Twitter several hours later 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.
Referring to the bureau’s Washington field office, Bratt wrote: “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.”
The email was sent to Trump’s lawyers before the former president’s accusation that the FBI stole his passports. The accuracy of the email from Bratt, who is chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at the Justice Department, was also confirmed by the law enforcement source, reported NBC News.
According to the search warrant and property receipt unsealed by a federal magistrate judge in Florida, FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents in the search of Mar-a-Lago, including boxes containing records marked “secret,” “top secret,” “confidential” and “classified/TS/SCI,” or top secret/sensitive compartmented information.
Also, the president is under investigation for possible violations of three federal statutes, the warrant and accompanying documents indicated, including the Espionage Act, and specifically the section of that law involving gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the Justice Department and bureau, since the FBI’s search, claiming without evidence it was a politically motivated attack targeting a likely challenger to President Biden in 2024. The former president claimed his legal team had been complying with the government’s requests related to the records, but one of Trump’s lawyers signed a document certifying that all classified materials had been removed from Mar-a-Lago. According to two sources, 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.
Investigators learned there may still be more there, after the former president’s attorney certified all classified materials had been retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. Also, some of the documents taken by the FBI were protected under attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, “which they knowingly should not be taken,” Trump has claimed. Though, the FBI is working to ensure federal prosecutors do not process privileged material outside the scope of the search warrant, as the reference by Bratt to filter agents suggests.