Former President Donald Trump said that the very fact he shipped documents to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving the White House automatically meant they were declassified.
In an interview that aired Wednesday evening, Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity asked Mr. Trump to describe the declassification process he went through for the papers in dispute, and he brushed the premise aside.
“There doesn’t have to be a process as I understand it,” Mr. Trump said.
“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify, just by saying ‘it’s declassified,’ even by thinking about it,” the ex-president said.
He elaborated that sending documents from the White House is declassifying them.
“You’re sending it to Mar-A-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it. 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, When you send it, it’s declassified. I declassified everything,” he said, stressing the last word for emphasis.
In a later part of the interview, Mr. Trump claimed that his power mooted a dispute his lawyers are having with the special master about seeing what seized documents may be classified.
“I declassified the documents when they left the White House,” he repeated.
In a wide-ranging interview that aired as an episode of Fox’s “Hannity” program, Mr. Trump speculated widely about the FBI’s raid last month on his home in Florida.
For example, he suggested that the agents might have planted or tampered with the files to incriminate him.
“Did they drop anything into those files? Or did they do it later? There’s no chain of custody here with them,” he said, prompting Mr. Hannity to ask whether that would appear on surveillance video.
Mr. Trump said it wouldn’t because it all happened in a secured room.
He also said the National Archives and Records Administration was “a radical-left group of people” engaged in a cover-up.
“When you send documents over there I would say there’s a very good chance that a lot of those documents will never be seen again,” Mr. Trump said.
He also speculated that the raid might have been an effort to cover up previous scandals or even a search for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s missing email.
“There’s also a lot of speculation because of what they did, the severity of the FBI coming and raiding Mar-A-Lago — were they looking for the Hillary Clinton emails that were deleted but they are around someplace?” he said.
A surprised Mr. Hannity asked why Mr. Trump would have them.
“They may have thought that it was in there,” Mr. Trump replied, going on to freely wonder aloud about the real cause of the unprecedented act of raiding a former president’s home.
“A lot of people said the only thing that would give the kind of severity they showed is … the Hillary Clinton deal, the Russia, Russia, Russia stuff, or the spying on Trump’s campaign,” he said.