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Presidents can declassify documents on a whim, even just by “thinking about it,” former President Donald Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday.
Trump appeared on Hannity’s show to discuss the ongoing federal investigation into classified documents found in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home during an FBI raid.
“Is there a process? What was your process to declassify?” Hannity asked.
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump responded. “You know, different people say different things, but as I understand it there doesn’t have to be.”
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“If you’re the president of the United States you can declassify just by saying: ‘It’s declassified.’ Even by thinking about it,” he added. “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…I declassified everything.”
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Classification is a system within the executive branch for privileging information, typically relying on three tiers: confidential, secret and top secret. Only those with proper clearance levels can handle or be told about the information in a classified document.
Declassifying documents typically follows a process in which the agency to which the information pertains is consulted. Then, an officially designated “original classification authority” would move to declassify the document, according to the New York Times.
While presidents do have the authority to declassify documents on their own, the relevant agencies would still have to be informed of the move for a formal declassification to take place.
The FBI found roughly 100 documents marked to varying levels of classification inside Mar-a-Lago.
The DOJ has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of the files. A federal appeals court allowed investigators to continue inspecting the files in a Wednesday ruling, dealing a blow to Trump’s argument that the documents were no longer classified.
The files are being looked at by Judge Raymond Dearie, a special master appointed for that purpose at the request of Trump’s legal team.