Trump Admits to Taking Government Docs, But Claims He Declassified Them

Former President Donald Trump claimed on a far right radio show on Thursday that he had given “verbal orders” to declassify the documents that were found at his Mar-a-Lago estate last month.

When Host Hugh Hewitt asked if he issued such orders verbally while president, Trump said that was a “correct” assessment, even though it conflicts with existing processes for how documents should be declassified.

“I have the absolute right to declassify, absolute,” Trump said. “A president has that absolute right, and a lot of people aren’t even challenging that anymore.”

Eighteen of Trump’s former staffers, including high-ranking aides, have disputed Trump’s claims that he gave a “standing order” to declassify materials he took from the White House, with some describing the claim as “bullshit.”

There is no evidence that Trump has declassified any material that ended up at Mar-a-Lago other than his own statements, which are not supported by his allies. have been less than reliable in the past. The ex-president has not provided any physical evidence to support his claims.

It’s unlikely that Trump would have been able to legally declassify documents through a verbal order alone, Bradley P. Moss, a national security lawyer, said on Twitter.

Trump’s claim that the president is the ultimate authority on the classification status of documents “is true,” Moss conceded. “BUT there is case law from the Trump era clarifying how, in the view of the courts, a mere tweet or verbal statement was not enough to actually declassify a record. Further action was required.”

Importantly, Trump is defending his actions in radio programs by claiming he declassified documents found at his estate. his lawyers have not yet presented that argumentAccording to reports, they were in court. In any of the filings made by his legal counsel regarding the improperly removing classified documents, there are no claims of declassification.

In some ways, the classification status of these documents is a red herring, because with regard to the law it doesn’t matter.

The Espionage Act, a law that the Department of Justice (DOJ) cited in the search warrant that was served on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate early last month, does not require that mishandled documents are classified in order for someone to be prosecuted; all the law is concerned with is whether government documents are used or mishandled in a way that could jeopardize the country’s interests abroad.

Likewise, the Presidential Records Act does not include a stipulation that the documents be classified. The preservation of government documents is all that matters, and presidential records — which belong to the government rather than former presidents — must be retained by the National Archives, that act states.