Trump: Presidents Can Declassify Info Just by Thinking It

Former president tells Hannity all Mar-a-Lago papers were declassified
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2022 9:50 AM CDT
Trump: I Can Declassify 'Even by Thinking About It'
Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(Newser) – As the Justice Department moves ahead with a possible criminal case against Donald Trump over his handling of classified documents, the former president is doubling down on a basic line of defense. Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News Wednesday that everything at Mar-a-Lago was, in fact, declassified because he had the authority as president to declare it so, reports Politico. "There doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it," Trump said. "If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, 'It's declassified.' Even by thinking about it."

The Washington Post notes that presidents do indeed have the power to declassify information, but usually "there's a process for doing so," one that involves coordinating with various government agencies. Trump hasn't previously provided evidence that he underwent any such process, though he's now asserting it wasn't necessary. "There can be a process, but there doesn't have to be," he told Hannity. "You're the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it's declassified. I declassified everything."

In terms of the legalities at play, the Hill notes that while Trump's lawyers have pointed to his authority to declassify, they've stopped short of saying he actually did so in the matter of the Mar-a-Lago documents. The Justice Department's reply to that suggests it won't be buying Trump's "even by thinking about it" line of defense. "Plaintiff principally seeks to raise questions about the classification status of the records and their categorization under the Presidential Records Act ('PRA')," it wrote in a legal brief. "But plaintiff does not actually assert—much less provide any evidence—that any of the seized records bearing classification markings have been declassified." (Read more Donald Trump stories.)

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