Donald Trump claimed in an interview Wednesday night that presidents can declassify documents without any written or verbal declaration.
What You Need To Know
- Donald Trump claimed in an interview Wednesday night that presidents can declassify documents by simply "thinking about it"
- Trump has claimed publicly he declassified the documents, although his lawyers have been reluctant to make that argument in court filings and hearings
- Trump’s comments Wednesday were made just before a federal appeals court overturned an order by a Florida federal judge that temporarily blocked the Justice Department from using the classified files in its investigation
- The former president also suggested the FBI might have been looking for emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s personal server
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump claimed: “If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it, because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending it. And there doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process, but it doesn't have to be.”
It was the former president’s first sit-down TV interview since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in August, seizing more than 11,000 files, including about 100 that were marked classified.
Trump has claimed publicly he declassified the documents, although his lawyers have been reluctant to make that argument in court filings and hearings. His legal team has said the declassification issue might be used as Trump’s defense if he’s indicted.
Trump’s comments Wednesday were made just before a federal appeals court overturned an order by a Florida federal judge that blocked the Justice Department from using the classified files in its investigation until after a special master had reviewed all the documents for privileged information.
The court wrote in its ruling that Trump “suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was president. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified.
“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 added.
Presidents have the authority to declassify documents, but they typically engage in a process with Cabinet members or agency heads from where the information originated to prevent natural security risks.
Trump also said Wednesday he did not pack any of the boxes that were shipped from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, instead leaving that to the General Services Administration, which helps facilitate presidential transitions.
The former president also suggested the FBI might have been looking for emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s personal server.
“There's also a lot of speculation, because of what they did — the severity of the FBI coming in raiding Mar-a-Lago — were they looking for the Hillary Clinton emails that were deleted but they are around someplace?” Trump said.
Hannity then interrupted Trump to ask, “You’re not saying you had it?”
“No, no, they may be saying, they may have thought that it was in there,” the former president responded.
Trump also said the FBI might have been searching for documents related to the investigation into links between his 2016 presidential candidate and the Russian government or alleged spying on the Trump campaign.
According to the search warrant, federal law enforcement is investigating Trump for removal or destruction of records, obstruction of justice and violating the Espionage Act.
The Fox interview came on the same day that New York state Attorney General Letitia James filed a $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump, his company, three of his adult children and others, alleging Trump falsely inflated his net worth in order to secure more favorable bank loans for his business.
Trump told Hannity the financial disclosures provided to financial institutions included a long disclaimer stating that they should not base their decisions on The Trump Organization’s numbers alone.
“We have a disclaimer right on the front, and it basically says get your own people, you're at your own risk,” Trump said. “ … So don't rely on the statement that you're getting.”