Bloomberg News reported Thursday that one of Donald Trump's excuses for having government documents at his personal estate in Mar-a-Lago, including top secret and classified materials, was his "standing order" to declassify them.
The statement from Trump, read on Fox News, said that as president, he had the "standing order" so materials “removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them."
When Trump gave the excuse, a senior administration official called it “bullsh*t," and two of Trump's former chiefs of staff agreed.
“Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given,” said John Kelly. “And I can’t imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it.”
Kelly was Trump's chief of staff for 17 months.
Now the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are staying mum on whether such an order exists.
Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the order, suing the DOJ and ODNI for the release. But in focus revealed Wednesday, government lawyers said they can neither confirm nor deny whether Trump had such an order. They claim it's due to an ongoing criminal investigation.
“The existence or non-existence of the alleged ‘Standing Order’ would bear on whether records with apparent classification markings were in fact classified - a key fact in the investigation,” Bloomberg cited Joseph Bender, a top FOIA lawyer at the FBI.