The National Archives has notified U.S. Dept. of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith it has critical evidence proving Donald Trump knew his claims about being able to declassify classified and top secret documents just by declaring them declassified were false.
CNN in an exclusive report reveals the National Archives (NARA) says it has a set of 16 documents detailing communications between them and Trump's top staffers, and Trump himself, that shows procedures required to declassify intelligence.
“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 said in a May 16 letter to Trump.
The Special Counsel says those records are “not practically available from another source.”
Last September Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity a very different story.
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“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump falsely claimed. “You’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.”
CNN reports the "16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president’s awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents."
The documents "may also provide insight into Trump’s intent and whether he willfully disregarded what he knew to be clearly established protocols, according to a source familiar with recent testimony provided to the grand jury by former top Trump officials."
Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump on two fronts: his possibly unlawful mishandling of classified intelligence, including his possibly unlawful removal from the White House, retention, and refusal to return hundreds of classified documents, and Trump's actions to overturn the 2020 election.
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Last August, responding to news reports he was allegedly under FBI investigation for actions covered by the Espionage Act by making apparently false claims about his mishandling of classified documents and about former President Barack Obama, Trump said on his social media platform,“Number one, it was all declassified.” That does not appear to have been true.
“Number two,” Trump continued, “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything," he claimed, apparently referring to the FBI's execution of a lawful subpoena on Mar-a-Lago last summer to retrieve the documents and thousands of other items taken from the White House.
Just last week at CNN's highly-criticized Trump town hall, the ex-president again made false claims about classified documents and procedures required to declassify them.
“And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them,” Trump said (video below), which is false.
Collins: Do you still have any classified documents in your possession?
Trump: I have no classified documents and by the way they automatically declassified when I took them pic.twitter.com/ydnhS5rrsI
— Acyn (@Acyn) May 11, 2023
Trump also claimed he had "the absolute right to do whatever I want with" classified documents, and claimed he had never shown them to anyone.
For the last several months Donald Trump and MAGA supporters have claimed that Trump declassified all of the documents he had.
In tonight’s CNN Town Hall Kaitlan Collins asked him if he ever showed his classified documents to anyone. He replied “not really.” He then said “not… pic.twitter.com/R1SIWJNcuT
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) May 11, 2023
Watch videos of Trump above or at this link.