Materials seized by the FBI on Monday in its raid of President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence had already been declassified under a “standing order” that applied to any documents he took from the Oval Office to his home, according to the president’s office.
In a statement provided to Just The News on Friday, Trump’s staff noted, “The very fact that these documents were present at Mar-a-Lago means they couldn’t have been classified.”
Relating the president to the average employee who occasionally has to bring their work home, the statement acknowledged that Trump often brought documents — including classified documents — home with him to prepare for the next day’s work. However, due to the alleged standing order, the president’s office contended that any such documents would have immediately become declassified.
Further adding that the power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the president, the statement concluded, “The idea that some paper-pushing bureaucrat, with classification authority delegated BY THE PRESIDENT, needs to approve of declassification is absurd.”
Per Just The News, former aides to previous presidents confirmed to the outlet that the president’s power to declassify was “absolute,” recalling instances where their bosses had declassified information on-the-spot without any prior notice.
The outlet noted that in 2009, an executive order issued by Barack Obama outlined a “uniform system” for the classification and declassification of national security information, designating original classification authority only to the president and vice president, agency heads, and officials designated by the president, and U.S. government officials who have been given the authority by the aforementioned individuals.
As it relates to declassification, the order further specifies that information originated by the president, vice president, their staff, and “committees, commissions, or boards appointed by the incumbent President; or other entities within the Executive Office of the President that solely advise and assist the incumbent President” is exempt from mandatory declassification review.
According to the FBI warrant to search Trump’s property, the bureau is investigating whether Trump violated any of three statutes.
The first, 18 U.S. Code § 793, is also known as the Espionage Act and prohibits “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.” The second statute, 18 U.S. Code § 2071, bars the willful and unlawful concealment, removal or general “mutilation” of government property. Lastly, the warrant lists 18 U.S. Code § 1519, which forbids the “destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy.”
While the penalties for violating each of these statutes carry potential fines and prison sentences, the second, 2071, carries the additional penalty that the individual shall also “forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”
On Aug. 8, Clinton-linked lawyer Marc Elias emphasized this fact on Twitter, writing, “The media is missing the really, really big reason why the raid today is a potential blockbuster in American politics.”
Referencing Elias’s tweet, former Trump White House official Steve Bannon told Fox News that he believed the raid on the president’s home was simply an attempt to disqualify him from running for office again in 2024.
“This is about pure power politics,” he said. “They’re absolutely petrified Trump’s gonna announce in the next couple weeks, win the Republican nomination, win the White House.”
As of yet, the FBI has not charged President Trump with a crime. As the investigation moves forward, however, the president’s supporters will likely be watching closely to see the Justice Department’s next moves and whether a political agenda is at play.