Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on Aug. 6, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
“If you’re the president of the United States you can declassify just by saying: ‘It’s declassified.’ Even by thinking about it,” he added. “There doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be. You’re the president, you make that decision…I declassified everything.”
Classification is a system within the executive branch for privileging information, typically relying on three tiers: confidential, secret and top secret. Only those with proper clearance levels can handle or be told about the information in a classified document.
This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and redacted in part by the FBI, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Department of Justice via AP)
Declassifying documents typically follows a process in which the agency to which the information pertains is consulted. Then, an officially designated “original classification authority” would move to declassify the document, according to the New York Times.
While presidents do have the authority to declassify documents on their own, the relevant agencies would still have to be informed of the move for a formal declassification to take place.
The DOJ has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of the files. A federal appeals court allowed investigators to continue inspecting the files in a Wednesday ruling, dealing a blow to Trump’s argument that the documents were no longer classified.
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