Aug 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Bolton: Trump's defense of Mar-a-Lago materials "almost certainly a lie"

Former President Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Aug. 6 in Dallas. Photo: Brandon Bell via Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton told the New York Times that former President Trump, whom he served under for over 17 months, is "almost certainly" lying about why he had classified material at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Why it matters: After a search warrant unsealed Friday revealed FBI agents recovered classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, Trump and his team claimed he had a "standing order" dictating that documents taken from the Oval Office to his residence were "deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them."

What he's saying: Bolton told the Times he had never heard of any such standing order. It is "almost certainly a lie," he said.

  • "I was never briefed on any such order, procedure, policy when I came in," Bolton said. "If he were to say something like that, you would have to memorialize that, so that people would know it existed."
  • Trump's clubs in Florida and New Jersey had installed secure facilities for the purpose of viewing top secret documents, Bolton noted — Trump shouldn't have needed to declassify anything.
  • Moreover, declassified materials are subject to public record requests, Bolton pointed out.
  • "When somebody begins to concoct lies like this, it shows a real level of desperation."

The big picture: The unsealed warrant showed that the materials recovered from the estate were only meant to be kept in secure government facilities.

  • The revelations undercut Trump and his allies’ claims that the warrant was baseless.

Worth noting: Trump's legal team said in a written declaration in June that all classified material stored at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, the Times reports.

Go deeper: Presidential Records Act and Trump search explained

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