In his first TV appearance since a court-authorized search of his Florida home last month, Donald Trump reasserted Wednesday that any documents taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago were declassified while he was in office, adding that a president can carry that 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 that about 100 of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were marked classified, including some labeled 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.”
Trump’s comments followed an announcement earlier in the day that New York Attorney General Letitia James was filing a lawsuit accusing him and his three children of manipulating property values to deceive lenders, insurance brokers and tax officials. On Hannity’s program, Trump called the lawsuit part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” that has been brewing since he first ran for office.
Trump’s legal team has so far not produced evidence that the documents at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified, the three-judge panel of the appeals court noted in the Wednesday ruling. His lawyers have resisted doing so in front of special master Raymond Dearie, the U.S. district judge who pressed the team this week to provide such evidence, the panel wrote.
“For our part, we cannot discern why [Trump] would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the court wrote.
Following the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, the former president’s legal team has claimed that Trump issued a “standing order” while in office that documents taken to his residence would instantly be declassified.
In an interview with CNN in August, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, called that assertion “complete fiction.”
“There was no standing order,” Bolton said. “I was not briefed on anything like that when I started as national security adviser, I never heard of it, never saw it in operation, never knew anything about it.”
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.