Former president Donald Trump said Wednesday that any documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were declassified and claimed that a president can declassify documents “even by thinking about it.”
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox News’s Hannity.
“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified,” he added. “You’re the president — you make that decision.”
“In other words, when I left the White House, they were declassified,” Trump said, though he has not provided evidence.
Roughly 100 documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were marked classified, prosecutors have said. Some documents were labeled “top secret.”
Trump denied mishandling classified documents, saying he “declassified everything.” He said he did not pack any boxes when leaving the White House, adding that General Services Administration employees were in charge of packing up.
Presidents have the authority to declassify information. However, there is a process involved that can include coordinating with the agencies or Cabinet members involved to prevent any potential risks to national security.
Trump’s office said in a statement last month that the former president issued a “standing order” while in office that documents taken to his residence would instantly be declassified. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton called the claims “complete fiction.”
Trump’s pre-recorded interview on Hannity came before an appeals court sided with the Department of Justice Wednesday, allowing them to continue looking through the classified materials after Judge Aileen Cannon put the review on pause while a special master reviewed the documents.
The special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, has questioned why Trump’s lawyers have not provided evidence that the former president had declassified the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago as he claims. Dearie said that without evidence, he can only judge the documents by their markings, which brand them as highly sensitive national security secrets.
“My view of it is: You can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie said.
Earlier on Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she was filing a lawsuit against Trump, three of his adult children, and executives at his business empire, accusing them of carrying out fraudulent financial practices that she claims occurred over the course of more than a decade.
Trump and his associates are accused of manipulating property valuations to mislead lenders, insurance brokers, and tax authorities in order to receive better rates on bank loans and insurance policies and to reduce their tax liability. James accuses Trump and his three adult children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump — of creating more than 200 misleading evaluations of the company’s finances.
Trump said on Hannity that the lawsuit is the result of a politically motivated “witch hunt.” He suggested banks should have done more diligence if there were discrepancies about property values.