18 Former Trump Officials Say Claim of 'Standing Order' to Declassify White House Docs Is False: Report

·3 min read
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Drew Angerer/Getty President Donald Trump

More than a dozen former Trump administration officials are disputing claims that the former president had a "standing order" to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence.

Since the FBI searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property and seized 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked "top secret," the former president and his supporters have said that because of the order any classified materials Trump removed would be instantly declassified.

A statement from Trump's office read on Fox News four days after the search of Trump's Palm Beach, Fla., resort, outlined his defense and suggested the declassification order was in place so the president could work from home as needed.

"Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given," John Kelly, who served as Trump's chief of staff from 2017 to 2019, told CNN in a report that cites 17 other officials who called the claim of a standing order to declassify White House documents false.

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"And I can't imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it," Kelly added.

Mick Mulvaney, who became the acting White House chief of staff after Kelly, also told CNN he was "not aware of a general standing order."

Following the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, a U.S. court unsealed the warrant that gave FBI agents access to the property, revealing that the Department of Justice is investigating the former president for potential violations of the Espionage Act and other national security-related statutes.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Brandon Bell/Getty Donald Trump

The 18 members of the Trump administration CNN interviewed for the report included White House attorneys, Justice Department officials as well as national security and intelligence officials, according to the news outlet.

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Together, the officials covered all four years of Trump's presidency. Official after official "scoffed" at the claim, CNN reports.

One senior White House aide called the claim "total nonsense," and wondered, "If that's true, where is the order with his signature on it? If that were the case, there would have been tremendous pushback from the Intel Community and DoD, which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill."

"There is a process to declassify, the president can't just wave a magic wand," another former senior Trump White House official said.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said he was never briefed on a standing declassification order and called the notion "a complete fiction."

RELATED: Trump's Former National Security Advisor Says There's 'No Evidence' of 'Partisan Motive' in Mar-a-Lago Search

"It doesn't even work that way, there is an actual process," another former White House national security official said.

"If this existed, there had to be some way to memorialize it," Bolton said on CNN's New Day. "The White House counsel had to write it down. Otherwise, how would people throughout the government know what to declassify?"

Steven Aftergood, an expert on classification who is the director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, tells CNN that presidents do have the ability to declassify information but objected to the idea that it could be done based on a location.

"A document that is classified in Washington, DC, is unclassified in Florida — one could say such a thing, but it is nonsensical," Aftergood said. "And it calls into question the good faith of anyone who would make such a claim."