Trump made the remarks Wednesday evening in response to litigation that’s increasingly centering on whether Trump properly declassified thousands of documents seized by FBI agents from his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. Speaking to Hannity at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated his claim that he declassified the documents in addition to declaring a sweeping new ability for the president to do so.
“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,” said Trump. “And it doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be. You’re the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it’s declassified. Because I declassified everything.”
FBI agents carried out a court-approved search of Trump’s home in August as part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into whether the former president was hoarding classified and other sensitive documents. Trump responded with a civil lawsuit that successfully sought the appointment of a special master, an independent arbiter to sort out private materials hauled away by FBI agents.
Judge Raymond Dearie, the recently appointed special master in the case, asked Trump’s lawyers to provide details on the former president’s declassification of documents. Trump’s legal team earlier this week objected and suggested that doing so would mean disclosing their defense to a potential future indictment of the former president.
Dearie reportedly told Trump’s lawyers during a hearing Tuesday that they cannot “have your cake and eat it too.”
Others have disputed Trump’s claim that he declassified documents he took to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency—including members of his inner circle.
“You can’t just sort of stand over a box of documents, wave your hand and say these are all declassified,” he said. “That’s not how the system works.”
Other high-ranking members of Trump’s administration, including former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former national security adviser John Bolton, said they were unaware of any “standing order” to declassify documents taken to his residence.
Newsweek reached out to the DOJ for comment.
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