Marc Short, top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, called former President Trump’s assertion that presidents can declassify documents just by thinking about it “absurd.”
Short made the comments in an interview with CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, after Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity this week that presidents can declassify documents “even by thinking about it.” Herridge asked Short if he shared that understanding of how declassification works.
“That’s absurd, obviously,” Short responded. “And I think it would make it very difficult for the intelligence community to have a classification system if that was the case.”
Asked if he and Pence operated under that standard, Short replied, “Of course not.”
Federal investigators are reviewing the scores of documents with classification markings seized at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago home last month.
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said of declassification to Hannity. “You know, there’s different people say different things, but as I understand, there doesn’t have to be — if you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified — even by thinking about it —because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it. And there doesn’t have to be a process. 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. I declassified everything.”
Presidents do have sweeping authority to declassify records, but there is a process that is normally followed. Generally, a president’s instructions to declassify documents are first written down in a memo, typically drafted by White House lawyers, which the president would then sign. Relevant agencies are usually then consulted and when a final decision is made, the document would be marked, with its old classification level crossed out, and stamped, “Declassified on X date” by the agency in question.
Short also addressed the possibility of a Pence 2024 presidential bid. For now, he said the former vice president’s focus is traversing the country to make sure conservatives win House, Senate and gubernatorial races from coast to coast. Pence has a leadership PAC focused on electing conservative candidates and a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization focused on furthering conservative values. A decision about whether he’ll run for office is one Pence will likely make next year, Short said.
“The last six weeks seems to be traveling all over the country these last 45 days, and I think that he has been for the last few weeks,” Short said, adding that “he’s going to be doing a lot of House races, in governors races. And I think that that’s where his focus is going to be.”
“And I think again, at some point next year, he’ll figure out where he thinks that he’s being called to serve next,” Short said. “And if that’s the case that he feels that’s where he’s being called, then I think he’ll make an announcement at that time. But right now, his focus is on the midterm election cycle.”
Asked if this is an environment in which Republicans can break through in November, Short replied, “Absolutely.” He praised House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans for announcing their agenda Friday. It tells the voters, “If you elect us, here’s what we will do to help change the situation on the border. Here’s what we’ll do to help change the trajectory of our economy right now,” Short said.
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