New evidence in the special counsel’s investigation of Donald Trump over allegations he improperly handled classified documents suggests the former president knew the proper process for declassification, CNN reports.
The National Archives in a May 16 letter to Trump informed the former president that it intended to provide special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that could show Trump and his advisors had knowledge of the appropriate way to declassify such documents, the report said.
“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote to Trump in a letter obtained by CNN.
The 16 presidential documents could show that the former president had knowledge of the declassification process, which is considered a key element in the probe.
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The documents could also shed light on Trump’s intent and whether he showed willful disregard for what he knew to be established protocols, a source familiar with recent grand jury testimony by former top Trump officials told CNN.
Trump has argued that as president, he wasn’t required to declassify the documents. During last week’s CNN town hall in New Hampshire Trump said “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.”
Trump asserted a claim of “constitutionally based privilege” in an effort to block the special counsel from obtaining the records, the letter said.
But Wall disputes Trump’s claim, asserting in the letter that the special counsel’s office “is prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury’s investigation.”
Trump’s legal team declined to provide information on what’s contained in the 16 records.
His lawyers may challenge the release of the documents to the special counsel on principle, not because they contain anything incriminating, the report said.