Kash Patel, a former Trump aide, said he had witnessed the then-president declassify “whole sets of documents” in December 2020 and January 2021.

Former Trump aide Kash Patel said Trump could have easily declassified documents while in office.
He argued that Trump put out a “sweeping declassification order” over social media in October 2020.
His claims contradict past court rulings, expert opinions, and sworn statements from Trump’s staff.

Kash Patel, a one-time aide to former President Donald Trump, suggested on Sunday that Trump had the power to declassify documents through social media posts while he was in the White House.

He argued that this level of authority held by Trump meant that the burden of proof fell on the authorities to show that the former president failed to declassify the documents seized in the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid

However, Patel’s claims about Trump’s powers as president contradict clear court rulings and past sworn statements from Trump’s staff.

“In October of 2020, President Trump put out for the world to see a sweeping declassification order,” Patel told Fox News host Mark Levin on Sunday. “And he did it via social media.”

—Acyn (@Acyn) August 22, 2022

The MAGA lawyer, who helped Trump fight former FBI director Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, was referring to a tweet Trump made in October 2020. Trump wrote that he had “fully authorized the total Declassification of any and all documents pertaining to the greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”

Patel also told Levin that he had witnessed Trump declassify “whole sets of documents” in December 2020 and January 2021, while the then-president was “on his way out.” He also refuted the notion that the former president had to adhere to any protocols to declassify the documents, calling it a ploy by the “Fake News Mafia.”

Trump is under investigation by the Justice Department over whether he may have broken federal laws — including the Espionage Act — by keeping sensitive government documents at his Florida residence.

Trump has claimed that the Mar-a-Lago documents were declassified because he had a “standing order” as president to automatically declassify any files he took out of the White House. However, some of his former top officials said they had never heard of such an order while he was president.

What the court has said about declassification

In an interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on August 14, Patel posited how easily Trump could have declassified documents, stating that the former president could “literally stand over a set of documents and say: ‘These are now declassified.'”

However, federal court rulings during Trump’s own presidency indicate otherwise.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal stated in July 2020 that “declassification, even by the President, must follow established procedures,” after two journalists requested documents they said Trump had declassified on Twitter.

In October 2020, following Trump’s tweet about declassifying documents, the former president’s then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows submitted a sworn declaration stating that Trump had indicated that his declarations on Twitter were “not self-executing declassification orders” and did not “require the declassification or release of any particular documents.”

Even a press release from the Trump White House calling for the declassification of information wouldn’t suffice as a presidential declassification order if the proper procedures weren’t carried out, US District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled in March 2020.

Several experts, including former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta, have also rejected Trump’s claims about being able to instantly declassify confidential information.

“So there is nothing that I’m aware of that indicates that a formal step was taken by this president to, in fact, declassify anything. Right now, this is pretty much BS,” Panetta told CNN.

Jeh Johnson, who served as Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, called Trump’s claim “laughable” in an analysis published on August 15.

“It’s a little like saying that the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike is whatever speed the governor chooses to drive at in any given moment,” Johnson wrote.

Read the original article on Business Insider