Former President Donald Trump's allies say all classified White House documents he brought into the Mar-Arago mansion have been declassified, but some legal and presidential records experts are skeptical of the claims — and say Trump could be at risk of crime regardless.
The Department of Justice has a longhistory ofprosecutions involving mishandling of classified information, but such cases are the only cases where information can be declassified. has never been brought against the former president, a high-ranking government official. at will.
"As it stands, his justification would be, 'I have declassified those documents, so I don't have any classified documents now.'" said Charles Stimson, his senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Others see it differently — the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump's Florida resort on Monday, linked to classified information Trump allegedly took out. seems to be Trump's attorney, Christina Bob, said Tuesday that the warrant left by her agent was investigating possible violations oflaws relating to the handling of classified materials and the Presidential Records Act,. said there is.
But those in Trump's orbit wouldn't say the president is personally bound by the deletion and retention rules governing classified documents. According to Rick Grenell, who was Trump's acting secretary, classified documents could be declassified if the president simply said yes. The Director of National Intelligence, who handled highly classified information.
"There is no approval process for the President of the United States to declassify classified information. There is this bogus idea that he must provide notice for declassification, which is ridiculous." Who is he supposed to notify? I think it's a dead end to think that the president should seek bureaucratic approval," Grenell told NBC News, personally speaking for the president. I emphasized that I am not.
Richard Immerman, a historian and former Assistant Secretary of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama, disagreed, saying that the president has the power to declassify the documents. , there is a formal process to do so and there is no indication Trump has used it.
"He can't just wave his cane and say it's been declassified," Immermann said. "We need a formal process. That's the only way the system works," he added.
"I have seen thousands of declassified documents. They are all marked 'declassified' with the date they were declassified," Immermann said.
This does not appear to be the case with some of the documents returned to the National Archives by Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. David S., an archivist appointed by President Obama. In his letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February, Ferriero wrote that his agency said, "Security information , sent from Mar-a-Lago.
Kash Patel, who served as Pentagon chief of staff in the Trump administration, told Breitbart News in May. 56} The documents recovered from Marlago were declassified by Trump, but the markings on them were not updated: "Trump believes the American people should have the right to read for themselves, and is willing to leave the government." In anticipation, it has declassified the entire set of documents.
"Trump has been on everything from Russiagate to the Ukraine impeachment debacle to major national security issues of very high public importance." It's information that he felt told, and whatever the president felt the American people had a right to know was there." Pat Elle said at the time that the president was "declassifying this information."
Patel, who declined to comment on the documents earlier this week, told Breitbart:
An unauthorized source who discussed the matter with Mr. Trump but revealed the conversation said the former president had no interest in a formal protocol.
"I told him that there is a process and if you don't follow it, it could be a problem, but he thinks this is silly and didn't care." a source said. president. Since he is in charge of the country, he is in charge of national security. So he decides.
"It doesn't work," said Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security matters.
"Trump could say this is declassified until he turns blue. But no one is allowed to touch those records until the markings are dealt with." No," said Moss, a frequent Trump critic on Twitter.
He said that Trump and White House officials, given their own experience with the issue, He said he should have recognized that more work was needed to declassify the documents. In October 2020, Trump tweeted. "All documents relating to Russia's hoax, the greatest political crime in American history, as well as the Hillary Clinton email scandal. No redactions."
When I tried to get one, I was told they were still kept secret. Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in an affidavit in the case: Statements on Twitter are not self-enforcing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or disclosure of any particular document.
In the current controversy, the apparent lack of evidence that Trump declassified the documents before he resigned could pose a problem for the former president. said Steven Bradek, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.
"President Trump had the power to declassify any document he wanted while he was president, but no longer. We don't know ifcurrently, but without evidence to support it, we can argue that he declassified the documents while he was still in office," Vladek said.
Mr. Stimson of the Heritage Foundation has a different view. Trump was once the “ultimate declassification authority.”
"If the president decides to declassify the document and doesn't tell anyone - but he decides to declassify something - then the document is declassified." Stimson
he added: A match as to whether the document would be declassified if the president decided but didn't tell it out of his own head.
Mr Vladek said Mr Trump would face legal troubles because "some of the criminal law under discussion applies whether or not the underlying information is classified". said it could be done.
"The Presidential Records Act and other similar laws require that President Trump retain at least some public documents while in office, regardless of whether those documents contain classified national security information. Instead, it limits his ability to do what he wants," Vladeck said.
Moss said one of his laws prosecutors could theoretically oppose Trump was the18U. S. Code § 793 — Said "collection, transmission, or loss of defensive information."
The law provides that "a person in the lawful possession, access, custody, or entrusted with any document, document, codebook, or memo relating to national defense" may, with gross negligence, removed from proper storage, delivered to anyone against trust, lost, stolen, exfiltrated, or destroyed." and "knowingly retaining the same and any United States entitled to receive it Any person who fails to surrender upon demand to an officer or employee of State will also be punished.
In this case, the National Archives said it had been negotiating with Trump's team for the return of the documents since last year, and Moss said Trump's lawyers met with them . 117} The Department of Justice said recently in early June about the records still missing. On Thursday, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that it had also received a federal grand jury subpoena demanding the return of classified documents that the government believed Trump held. did.
However, it is still unclear what exactly investigators were looking for in Mar-a-Lago, or whether it was ever found. "I don't know what we don't know," said Moss.
Immerman said that given the information already revealed by the National Archives, the classified information sent to Mar I said it was all likely mishandled. in the middle. "When you move, you don't just put it in a briefcase, you put it in a double-locked pouch," he said. "When I worked for the National Intelligence Service, I couldn't carry the papers myself. Someone had to accompany me," added Immermann.
Former federal corruption prosecutor Noah Bookbinder, president of the left-wing government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said: Deletion may also result in legal exposure.
Trump has denounced the raids as part of an ongoing Democratic "witch hunt" against him. "After working with relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was neither necessary nor appropriate," he said in a statement Monday.
Stephen Miller, a former senior White House adviser who still speaks regularly with the former president, said he would not discuss details of how Trump processed or declassified the documents. To say he couldn't but the former president broke the law represents a "completely upside-down and nonsensical understanding of our constitution."
"The president can choose to use the declassification process or not," Miller said.
The organization filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration. He said he should have been fully aware that it was not a thing.
"These were all presidential records and should have been turned over to the National Archives," Bookbinder said.
"A White House attorney has informed Donald Trump and others of the requirements under the Presidential Records Act. It would be difficult to say I didn't," Bookbinder said.
Immermann said he was plagued by the potential loss of records, especially given reports that Trump destroyed government documents while in office.
"I don't know what was destroyed," said Immermann.
"As a historian, I am deeply disturbed and disturbed. At this time, I highly doubt that a complete and accurate history of the Trump administration can be written. That." 158}