Trump tells Hannity presidents can declassify documents ‘by thinking about it’

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An earlier version of this article incorrectly said former President Donald Trump’s legal team claimed Trump issued a “standing order” while in office to declassify documents. That claim was made by Trump’s office. The article has been corrected.

In his first televised appearance since a court-authorized search of his Florida home last month, Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that all documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were declassified while he was in office, adding, that a president can carry it out “even by thinking about it.”

“There doesn’t have to be a process as I understand it,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. Prosecutors have said about 100 of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were marked classified, including some 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.”

Court of Appeals: Justice Dept. can use Mar-a-Lago documents in a criminal case

Trump’s comments were made ahead of a Wednesday the decision of the Court of Appeal that the FBI can use the seized documents in its criminal investigation. His appearance also followed an announcement earlier in the day that New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit accusing him and his three children of manipulating property values ​​to defraud lenders, insurance brokers and tax authorities.

On Hannity’s show, Trump called the trial part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” that has been brewing since he first ran for office. He argued that if there were discrepancies about his property values, the banks should have done more due diligence, adding that his company provided a disclaimer on financial documents that said as much.

Regarding the FBI’s investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, Trump said he “declassified everything.” He also said he personally did not pack any boxes when he left the White House. The task was mostly carried out by General Services Administration staff, he said, referring to the office that plays a prominent role in presidential transitions.

Trump’s legal team has so far no evidence presented that the Mar-a-Lago documents had been declassified, the appeals court’s three-judge panel noted in Wednesday’s ruling. His lawyers have resisted doing so up front special master Raymond Dearie, the U.S. District Judge who pressured the team this week to provide such evidence, the panel wrote.

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

Presidents has the power to declassify information – although there is typically a process for doing so, which may include coordinating with the agencies or cabinet members from which the information originates to prevent possible national security risks.

Status of key investigations involving Donald Trump

Following the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8, the former president’s office said in a statement that Trump issued a ‘standing order’ while in office that documents taken to his residence would be immediately declassified. But Trump’s lawyers have avoided making a similar claim in court or in their legal filings, says Tuesday that solving the problem would mean revealing a potential defense that could be used if the investigation results in an indictment.

In an interview with CNN in AugustJohn Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, called the claim by the former president’s office about the standing order to declassify documents “complete fiction.”

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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