Donald Trump’s lawyer has claimed that all investigations into him will be dropped if he says he won’t run in 2024.
“I’ve said it 100 times – if he's not leading in the polls – I've sat across from him, every time he gets frustrated I say to him, ‘Mr President, if you would like me to resolve all your litigation, you should announce that you are not running for office, and all of this will stop,’” the former president’s attorney Alina Habba told Real America’s Voice.
Mr Trump is facing at least four major investigations: The probe into the storage of top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, his role and actions in relation to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, the special grand jury investigation in Fulton County, Georgia in connection to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state, and the investigation into his private business practices by the New York state attorney general.
One of Mr Trump’s most common criticisms of investigations into him is that they are politically motivated “witch hunts”.
Sources from the Department of Justice have said that the raid on Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s southern Florida estate, was an effort to look for documents related to nuclear weapons, The Washington Post reported.
Trump’s attorney says she has advised him that if he just says he won’t run for president, all these investigations and charges will go away and be dropped. pic.twitter.com/NIZY0EeP3t
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) August 12, 2022
The new defence coming out of Mr Trump’s office is that the documents had already been declassified.
Some of the documents were marked “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
A statement defending the keeping of the documents at the former president’s private club was shared on Fox News on Friday by right-wing writer John Solomon.
Statement from Trump Office: As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time… He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified.. pic.twitter.com/pnTjRnOqif
— Acyn (@Acyn) August 13, 2022
“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 for work the next day, often took documents including classified documents from the Oval Office to the residence,” the statement said. “He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified.”
This would mean that anyone would be able to view the documents.
“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 of declassification is absurd,” the statement said.
Mr Solomon wrote on his site Just The News that Mr Trump’s office said that “the very fact that these documents were present at Mar-a-Lago means they couldn’t have been classified”.
Graeme Wood, writing for The Atlantic, noted that “the Atomic Energy Acts of 1946 and 1954 produced an even [stronger] category of classified knowledge. Anything related to the production or use of nuclear weapons and nuclear power is inherently classified, and Trump could utter whatever words he pleased yet still be in possession of classified material”.
The new statement from Mr Trump’s office goes against previous messages from the former president, in which he baselessly claimed the FBI could have planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago during the raid.
Presidents can declassify documents, but they must follow a certain procedure.
“He can’t just wave a wand and say it’s declassified,” Obama assistant deputy director of national intelligence Richard Immerman told NBC News. “There has to be a formal process. That’s the only way the system can work.”
He added that documents that have been declassified are marked with the date that the classification was removed. Some of the documents sent back to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year had no such markings, according to NBC.
The FBI found 11 sets of classified documents during its recent search. The Department of Justice is investigating if Mr Trump could be in violation of three laws in relation to the document removal, according to the unsealed search warrant.