Former President Donald Trump’s office issued a statement late Friday defending his possession of allegedly classified documents.
“As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different. President Trump, in order to prepare the work the next day, often took documents including classified documents to the residence,” the statement read.
“He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them. The power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the president of the United States. The idea that some paper-pushing bureaucrat with classification authority delegated by the president needs to approve the declassification is absurd.”
The statement was read live on Fox News’s “Hannity” by conservative journalist John Solomon.
The statement provoked immediate pushback from Democrats.
“There’s a really elaborate, documented process for declassification. It often takes months, by the way, so of course, he’s going to say that [about a standing order], because it creates a little bit of confusion and throws a little bit of mud into the water. But I can tell you, as somebody who also sees the most sensitive information that this country has, that’s utter baloney,” Rep Jim Hines said while speaking on MSNBC.
The Democrats’ media allies also pushed back.
Just asked a former senior administration official who would be in a position to know about such a thing and they had absolutely no idea what this report is talking about https://t.co/ucEXaHdblg
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 13, 2022
I checked the Federal Register. It’s a lie. https://t.co/0NKxMVfA9h
— Dr. Jorge Caballero stands with 🇺🇦 (@DataDrivenMD) August 13, 2022
Impossible to have “A standing order” that all materials you bring home area”deemed”I declassified. Such an order would have to be analyzed for legality by OLC and it would plainly fail
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) August 13, 2022
.@jsolomonReports if Trump had a standing order, where is it? Where is the WH memo disseminated to all agencies informing them of this order for their awareness when sending classified documents to the White House? Where are the logs of documents now listed as declassified?
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) August 13, 2022
According to “experts” who spoke with NBC News, “presidents have absolute authority to declassify documents.” However, the same “experts” note that “it’s not clear if former President Trump ever took action” to declassify the documents he took home with him.
But speaking with NBC News, former Trump-era acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell claimed that the former president’s words alone counted as “action.”
“There is no approval process for the president of the United States to declassify intelligence. There is this phony idea that he must provide notification for declassification but that’s just silly. Who is he supposed to notify? I think it’s the height of swampism to think the president should seek bureaucrats’ approval,” he said.
Legal experts say presidents have absolute authority to declassify documents, but it’s not clear if former President Trump ever took action to do so. https://t.co/j9GGtxNNBW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 13, 2022
Solomon’s news site, Just The News, has for its part obtained what appears to be confirmation from several additional sources that Trump had indeed declassified the documents via word alone.
“Ordinarily, documents declassified by a president are later retrieved and marked declassified, usually by crossing a line through the prior classification markings. But former top aides to prior presidents acknowledged the president’s power to declassify was absolute and at times resulted in instant declassification decisions,” the site reported.
As an example, one former administration official “related an instance where his boss, while talking to a foreign leader, gave top-secret information to the leader, declassifying simply by sharing what he had seen in a top-secret marked document.”
Another official likewise recalled “an instance he witnessed in which a president during a meeting, received a top secret document and one official got up to leave because his clearance was only at the secret level.”
“The president instantly approved that staffer to stay and consume the top-secret intelligence because it benefited the president’s work at that moment,” the official said.
All this said, it must be stressed that even if the president did take classified documents home with him, it still wouldn’t warrant a raid, let alone prosecution of any kind. Why? Because of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 24, 2016
As noted by National Review’s Mark Antonio Wright, “[A]nyone — either on the anti-Trump left or the Trump-skeptical right — who thinks that the FBI and Department of Justice’s credibility can survive in the eyes of the average, normie American if it prosecutes Donald J. Trump on very, very similar mishandling-of-classified-documents charges that Hillary avoided with nary a slap on the wrist is naïve to the point of lunacy.”
Even Washington Post columnist George Will, certainly no Trump fan, has acknowledged how screwed-up it’d be for Trump to be prosecuted for the same crimes that Clinton was let off the hook for.
“When the Clintons decamped from the White House in January 2001, they absconded with some furnishings that they were compelled to disgorge, without the FBI’s swarming their home. Hillary Clinton’s later mishandling of classified documents triggered FBI ham-handedness but not a law enforcement spectacle akin to Monday’s,” he wrote Thursday.
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