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Legal experts and critics lashed Donald Trump over the weekend after he fabricated a law he claimed gives presidents the “absolute and unquestioned right” to take any documents when they leave office.
The former president made the claim during a speech at the conservative Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday.
While railing against last month’s federal Espionage Act indictment over his handling of classified documents taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump claimed: “Whatever documents a president decides to take with him, he has the absolute and unquestioned right to do so.”
“This was a law that was passed and signed,” he insisted. “And it couldn’t be more clear.”
Legal experts did not agree. Laurence Tribe, a legal scholar and Harvard University professor emeritus, said “no such law exists.”
National security attorney Bradley P. Moss said it was an illegitimate argument that would fail in court. “It’s a political talking point. That’s all,” he tweeted.
Nope. No such law exists. Period. https://t.co/uBpSMoGl44
— Laurence Tribe 🇺🇦 ⚖️ (@tribelaw) July 16, 2023
This isn’t a legitimate legal argument. It’ll fail in court. It’s a political talking point. That’s all. https://t.co/Lk4FT52GiN
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) July 16, 2023
Trump has made similar claims in the past. Last month, he argued that a president leaving office has the “absolute right to keep [documents] or he can give them back to NARA if he wants,” referring to the National Archives and Records Administration.
His assertions have been repeatedly debunked by legal experts, who noted that the Presidential Records Act Trump has cited in his defense actually states the opposite. The 1978 law requires records created by presidents and vice presidents to be turned over to NARA at the end of their administrations.
Trump has also claimed he could take any documents he wanted because he had a “standing order” to automatically declassify any documents he took from the White House ― a claim that has been contradicted by many high-ranking members of his own administration, the relevant federal agencies and his own comments on a 2021 tape obtained by CNN.
His latest fiction drew backlash and ridicule online:
Of all the not true things, this is the not truest https://t.co/bSMFC9kNWv
— Adam Kinzinger #fella (@AdamKinzinger) July 16, 2023
No such law exists. Generally, laws granting rulers “absolute” power aren’t a thing in U.S. https://t.co/iHDXyHFb0a
— THE UNDERTOW, by Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) July 17, 2023
Say you’ve never read the Presidential Records Act without saying you’ve never read the Presidential Records Act: https://t.co/PYHSYC6LGm
— Gail Helt (@ghelt) July 16, 2023
THE LAW LITERALLY SAYS 100.00% THE INVERSE OF THIS. Its entire purpose was to do the inverse of what he is saying!
A lobotomized person can read the Presidential Records Act and discern this in 4 seconds. https://t.co/3GpSqPQadb
— Spiro’s Ghost (@AntiToxicPeople) July 16, 2023
Every day I pray this idiot testifies at his own trial. https://t.co/zpMYfeihPS
— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) July 16, 2023
The only way Trump is not convicted of stealing documents
Is if a MAGA cult member causes a hung jury
44 US Code §2022-The Presidential Records Act
“The United States shall reserve and retain COMPLETE OWNERSHIP, POSSESSION, AND CONTROL of Presidential records”
Emphasis added https://t.co/WXWTqq0Lvlpic.twitter.com/0yj0WrHpgS
— Adam Cohen Lawyers for Good Government #DemCast (@axidentaliberal) July 16, 2023
The best way to defend your case is to continually own up to the crimes and just make up laws…and do it all on camera.
Jack Smith must be in fits of laughter and shock at how dumb this man is. https://t.co/h3pYVpo0n0
— Darshan Sanghrajka - @chiefchimpanzee on Threads (@chiefchimpanzee) July 16, 2023