During the unprecedented FBI raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, agents snatched several of the former President’s passports, despite there being no authority to do so.
In fact, the FBI admitted it, stating that they returned to Trump’s possession soon after on account of the fact that they needn’t “be retained for law enforcement purposes”.
Now, however, it appears as though these passport are back to being the center of attention in the investigation, as an egregiously broad legal argument begins making the rounds.
In a footnote in Tuesday’s court filing pushing back against Trump’s demand for a special master to sort through the evidence that was seized at his Mar-a-Lago property, Justice Department officials countered his contention that it was an overreach to take three passports that were later returned.
Consistent with the terms of the search warrant, the Justice Department said in the filing that “the government seized the contents of a desk drawer that contained classified documents and governmental records commingled with other documents.”Trending:
“The other documents included two official passports, one of which was expired, and one personal passport, which was expired,” it said. “The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information.”
Here is where the wild and far-too-broad legal wrangling begins:
NBC News legal analyst Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney, said the reason the passports are “relevant evidence” is clear — they point directly to Trump.
“In most searches you look for identity documents to tie a suspect to the evidence you’re looking for — photographs, IDs, utility bills. If you find the contraband in the same room as the identity documents, there’s a fair inference that person had dominion and control over the documents,” said McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.
The DOJ is already facing rather sizeable criticism over the circumstances of the raid itself, and bringing any such wild legal theory into the mix is only likely to escalate this disparagement.