FBI interrogating Trump staffers whether he really issued a 'standing order' to declassify Mar-a-Lago documents: report
Trump gestures as he addresses a press conference at the Lotte Palace Hotel. (Shutterstock.com)

On Thursday, Rolling Stone reported that FBI investigators are now questioning former Trump administration officials to check on the former president's alibi that he issued a "standing order" to declassify the government material found at his Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida — and that among those interrogated were top national security staff.

"Two people familiar with the matter tell Rolling Stone that the FBI has begun asking former Trump administration officials whether they’ve heard of the so-called 'standing order' Trump claims to have given," reported Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng. "In recent days, the sources say, the feds have sent interview requests to the ex-officials, including former National Security Council personnel. The FBI has asked some of them to visit local FBI field offices to answer follow-up questions concerning the ex-president, classified and highly sensitive documents, and the alleged 'order.' That order, Trump’s office insisted last week, dictated that any 'documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified.'"

Prior reports have indicated that among the documents the FBI searched for as part of the Mar-a-Lago warrant were high-level nuclear weapons secrets — which, according to legal experts, the president doesn't actually have unilateral authority to declassify even if he wants to.

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"It’s unclear why a sitting president, who as commander-in-chief was privy to any classified information, would need to declassify work brought to the White House private residence," said the report. "John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser from 2018 to 2019, told The New York Times he was unaware of any such order and called the assertion 'almost certainly a lie.'"

Moreover, the report noted, the claims about a "standing order" contradict other claims the former president made in defense of himself.

"In posts to his social media platform Truth Social, Trump has suggested both that the FBI was involved in 'planting' evidence during the execution of the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, and that the documents found were 'all declassified' in any case. More recently, Trump has reposted a public Jan. 19, 2021 executive order calling for the declassification of a specific binder of classified documents related to the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Trump and Russian intelligence."