The Justice Department admitted late Monday that former President Donald Trump’s passports were taken by FBI agents who searched his Florida home last week — hours after “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell tweeted that she had been told otherwise.
Late Monday, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted a screenshot of an email from a member of the Justice Department’s National Security Division that acknowledged the bureau removed the 45th president’s travel documents from Mar-a-Lago.
“We have learned that the filter agents seized three passports belonging to President Trump, two expired and one being his active diplomatic passport,” the email said.
The email added that the agency was “returning” Trump’s passports and that they would be ready for pickup by 2 pm Monday.
“In executing search warrants, the FBI follows search and seizure procedures ordered by courts, then returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes,” the bureau said in a statement.
Trump initially accused the FBI of taking the passports Monday afternoon — an explosive allegation that suggested investigators believed he was a flight risk or faced potential charges that would prevent him from leaving the country.
“Wow! In the raid by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago, they stole my three Passports (one expired), along with everything else,” the former president wrote in a post on Truth Social.
“This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!” I have added.
On Monday evening, O’Donnell tweeted: “NEW: According to a DOJ official, the FBI is NOT in possession of former President Trump’s passports. Trump had accused the FBI of stealing his three passports from him during the search of his Mar-a-Lago home for him.”
In a follow-up tweet, O’Donnell hedged: “We are also learning tonight that if any items not contained in the warrant were retrieved during the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, they will be returned.”
An inventory of property that was taken from the resort made no mention of passports, though it did note that agents seized 27 boxes — some of which contained classified documents — two binders of photographs, and a handwritten note, among other items.
The search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, which was unsealed Friday, indicates the Justice Department is investigating whether Trump broke three laws pertaining to official records, including the Espionage Act of 1917 — a law used in recent years to justify harsh sanctions, including againstwhistleblowers.
The former president and his allies have slammed the FBI and said the raid is the latest phase of a long-running “witch hunt” that dates back to the bureau’s investigation into whether he colluded with Russia’s government during the 2016 campaign.
After the search warrant and inventory were unsealed Friday, Trump claimed that the documents in question had already been declassified and that the FBI search was unnecessary.
“They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” he wrote on Truth Social. “It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”