No “There-There” as Trump Says He Declassified All Documents at Mar-a-Lago 

President Trump says that he used his presidential powers to declassify any documents that he brought with him when he left the White House and took to Mar-a-Lago, and anything that was classified was returned in short order upon the Archivist’s and DOJ’s requests.

While the Justice Department has a long history of prosecuting cases involving the mishandling of classified information, no such case has ever been brought against a former president — the one government official who can declassify information at will.

“As the facts stand now, his defense would be, ‘I declassified those documents. I am not therefore in possession of classified documents now,’” said Charles Stimson, a senior fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former federal prosecutor.

The 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires presidents to turn over documents to the National Archives at the end of their administration, lacks an enforcement mechanism, but there are multiple federal laws regarding the handling of classified documents. 

In the wake of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, Trump himself signed one such law in 2018, increasing the penalty for “unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material” from one year to five years in prison.

However, Trump, his attorneys, and his allies all say that no president is personally bound by the removal and retention rules governing classified documents, which can be declassified if the president simply says they are, according to Ric Grenell, who was Trump’s acting director of national intelligence and who handled highly classified information.

“There is no approval process for the president of the United States to declassify intelligence. There is this phony idea that he must provide notification for declassification, but that’s just silly. Who is he supposed to notify? I think it’s the height of swampism to think the president should seek bureaucrats’ approval,” Grenell told NBC News, emphasizing that he wasn’t personally speaking for the president.

Trump himself said on his Truth Social platform Friday, “It was all declassified.”

Trump further commented on Truth Social over the weekend that some of the material confiscated by the FBI was off-limits as it was protected by “executive privilege” or “attorney-client privilege.”

Trump posted, “Oh great! It has just been learned that the FBI, in its now famous raid of Mar-a-Lago, took boxes of privileged ‘attorney-client’ material, and also ‘executive’ privileged material, which they knowingly should not have taken,” Trump wrote. “By copy of this TRUTH, I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned to the location from which they were taken. Thank you!”

Meanwhile, the Biden White House has refused to make any comments or statements about the raid, with White House Karine Jean-Pierre simply stating when pressed for a comment that it would be “inappropriate” to do so.

In a continuing series of posts, Trump called the FBI “corrupt” and claimed their raid at Mar-a-Lago was just the latest in a series of attempts to undermine him. 

“The FBI has a long and unrelenting history of being corrupt. Just look back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover,” the former president wrote on TRUTH Social, referencing the first director of the federal bureau.

Trump added, “In the modern era, nothing has changed except that it has gotten far worse.”

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