FBI agents did seize three passports from former President Donald Trump, including his active one, during the raid on Mar-a-Lago but realized they weren’t needed and took steps to return them, according to an email exchange posted by a Trump spokesman.
Spokesman Taylor Budowich excoriated a CBS News reporter in a Twitter exchange late Monday for reporting the Department of Justice did not have the passports in its possession, characterizing it as a government-media loop that damages his boss.
“This is how Fake News works, folks. Biden admin actively feeds half truths & lies that the media willingly amplifies — advancing a partisan narrative to attack Trump,” Mr. Budowich tweeted.
The dustup over Mr. Trump’s passports began Monday when the former president posted on Truth Social that agents took three of his passports, including an expired one, in the Aug. 8 search of his residence and office at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
After reports suggested that wasn’t true, Mr. Budowich posted an email from Jay Bratt, head of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the DOJ’s National Security Division, saying “filter agents” took two expired passports and one active diplomatic one, and they would be ready for pickup so they could be returned.
CBS News reporter Norah O’Donnell, who initially reported the government didn’t have the passports, retweeted a statement from the Justice Department late Monday that said: “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.”
Some Republicans faulted law enforcement for taking the passports at all.
“There are three branches of government, not four. Joe Biden’s federal police took Donald Trump’s passport,” Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, tweeted. “This is not tolerable.”
The episode was the latest strange chapter in the wake of the raid that is part of an investigation into whether Mr. Trump improperly took records that should have been retained by the National Archives.
An inventory of seized documents showed that some of them were marked as top secret.
Mr. Trump is fuming over the search. He says there is no justifiable reason to search the home of an ex-president and he wants to see the affidavit that outlines the factual basis for why investigators found it necessary. The Department of Justice has refused, saying it could jeopardize the probe.
The former president, who is mulling a 2024 presidential bid, has cast himself as a victim of government overreach, though he’s given mixed explanations about why there might be classified materials stowed at his home.
He floated the idea the FBI planted evidence during the raid, but his spokesmen also said Mr. Trump had a standing order that anything taken from the White House was automatically declassified through his presidential authority.