Former President Trump in a new interview asserted presidents don’t have to go through a formal process to declassify sensitive documents, and can do so “even by thinking about it.”
The former president’s comments came as he has repeatedly argued that he declassified secret and top secret documents he took with him to his Florida home after leaving the White House in 2021 amid a Justice Department investigation into his handling of classified materials.
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified.’ Even by thinking about it.”
“There can be a process but there doesn’t have to be. You’re the president, you make that decision. So when you send it, it’s declassified,” Trump added. “I declassified everything.”
Though presidents have broad power to declassify records, doing so sets off a chain of events, as the intelligence agencies that manage such records must take additional steps.
Trump and some of his allies have been insistent that the former president declassified all of the documents that he took with him upon leaving the White House. The FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate last month after a January search found dozens of classified, secret and top secret documents.
Trump’s attorneys in a filing last week repeatedly noted that Trump had the power to declassify records but stopped short of saying he actually did so despite a month of the former president airing the excuse.
The Justice Department responded by pointing out that Trump’s legal team was insinuating, but not fully asserting, that Trump had declassified the documents.
Trump told Hannity that the General Services Administration and other White House staff were involved in packing up boxes at the end of his term with pictures, newspaper articles and other materials.
The GSA, however, says its role in the transition phase for the outgoing president and vice president includes IT support, financial management, parking, furniture, vehicles, office equipment and administrative support.
“The GSA also works with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), as necessary, to provide support to the former Presidents in the establishment and maintenance of their libraries,” the organization states on its website. “These services are only provided in the event of a change of Administration.”