In his first TV appearance since a court-ordered search of his Florida home last month, Donald Trump said again on Wednesday that any documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were declassified while he was president. He added that a president can do this “even by thinking about it.”
“There doesn’t have to be a process,” Trump told. Prosecutors say that about 100 of the papers that were taken from Mar-a-Lago were marked “classified” and some of them were even marked “top secret.”
“If you’re the president of the United States you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified,” the former president added. “You’re the president — you make that decision.”
Trump said these things before an appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the FBI can use the seized documents in its investigation of a crime. His appearance also came after New York Attorney General Letitia James said earlier in the day that she would sue him and his three children for changing the values of their properties to trick lenders, insurance brokers and tax officials.
Trump said on Hannity’s show that the lawsuit was part of a political “witch hunt” that has been going on since he first ran for office. He said that they should have done more research if his property values differed from what the banks thought. He also said that his company put a disclaimer on financial documents saying the same thing.
Donald Trump said he “declassified everything” in response to the FBI’s investigation into the possible mishandling of secret documents. He also said that when he left the White House, he didn’t pack any boxes. He said that most of the work on the task was done by employees of the General Services Administration, a key office in presidential transitions.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court said in its Wednesday ruling that Trump’s lawyers have not yet shown proof that the documents at Mar-a-Lago were no longer secret. The panel wrote that his lawyers have refused to do so in front of special master Raymond Dearie, a U.S. district judge who told the team this week that it needed to show such evidence.
“For our part, we cannot discern why [Trump] would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the court wrote.
Presidents do have the power to declassify information but there is usually a process for doing so that can include working with the agencies or Cabinet members where the information came from to make sure there are no risks to national security.
After the court-ordered search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8, the former president’s office said in a statement that while Trump was in office he gave a “standing order” that any documents taken to his home would be made public right away. But Trump’s lawyers haven’t made a similar claim in court or in legal documents. On Tuesday they said that doing so would reveal a possible defense that could be used if the criminal investigation leads to an indictment.
In an interview with CNN in August, John Bolton who used to be Trump’s national security adviser, said that what the former president’s office said about the standing order to declassify documents was “complete fiction.”
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