Updated Sep 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump: Presidents can declassify documents "even by thinking about it"

Former president Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally to support local candidates at the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 03, 2022 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Former President Trump speaks at a rally to support local candidates in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., earlier this month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former President Trump insisted in a Fox News interview broadcast Wednesday night that he declassified government documents before taking them to his Mar-a-Lago residence.

Why it matters: The issue of classified documents is central to the Department of Justice's investigation into Trump and the former president's legal battle with the DOJ after the FBI last month seized a raft of government papers at his property in Palm Beach, Florida, some of which were labeled "top secret."

What he's saying: "There doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it," Trump said in the pre-recorded interview on Fox News' "Hannity."

  • "If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, 'It's declassified,'" he told Fox News' Sean Hannity.
  • "Even by thinking about it, because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending it. ... There can be a process, but there doesn't have to be."

The big picture: The Justice Department contends that the records belong to the government, not Trump.

  • A federal appeals court ruled earlier Wednesday, after Trump recorded the Fox News interview, that the DOJ could resume reviewing the classified documents.
  • The court noted that while Trump had suggested he'd declassified papers when he was president, there's no record of this.

Go deeper: Presidential Records Act and Trump search explained

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more context.

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