Trump has argued that presidents can declassify documents just by thinking about it

In his first televised appearance since a court-ordered search of his Florida home last month, Donald Trump said again Wednesday that all documents taken from the White House at Mar-a-Lago were declassified while he was president. He added that a president could do that “even by thinking about it.”

“There doesn’t need to be a trial,” Trump said. Prosecutors say about 100 of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were marked “classified” and some were even marked “top secret.”

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified,” the former president added. “You’re the president — you make that decision.”

Trump made the remarks before an appeals court ruled Wednesday that the FBI can use the seized documents in its criminal investigation. His appearance also came after New York Attorney General Leticia James said earlier in the day that she would sue him and his three children for changing the value of their properties to defraud lenders, insurance brokers and tax officials.

Trump said on Hannity’s show that the lawsuit is part of a political “witch hunt” that has been going on since he first ran for office. He said they should have done more research if the value of his properties differed from what the banks thought. He also said his company had put a disclaimer on financial documents saying the same thing.

Trump claims presidents can declassify documents
Trump claims presidents can declassify documents

Donald Trump said he “declassified everything” in response to the FBI’s investigation into the possible misuse of classified documents. He also said that when he left the White House, he didn’t pack any boxes. He said most of the work on the assignment was done by employees of the General Services Administration, a key office in presidential transitions.

The appeals court’s three-judge panel said in its Wednesday ruling that Trump’s lawyers have yet to show proof that the Mar-a-Lago documents are no longer classified. The panel wrote that his lawyers refused to do so before Special Master Raymond Deary, a U.S. district judge who told the team this week that it must show such evidence.

“For our part, we cannot understand why [Trump] would have an individual interest or need in any of the hundreds of classified documents,” the court wrote.

Presidents have the authority to declassify information, but there is usually a process for doing so, which may include working with the agencies or cabinet members where the information came from to ensure there are no national security risks.

After the court-ordered search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8, the former president’s office said in a statement that while Trump was in office, he gave a “standing order” that any documents taken at his home would be released immediately. But Trump’s lawyers have made no such claim in court or in legal filings. On Tuesday, they said it would reveal a possible defense that could be used if the criminal investigation leads to an indictment.

In an interview with CNN in August, John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security adviser, said what the former president’s office said about the permanent declassification order was a “complete fabrication.”

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