This Is What We Know About the President’s Power to Declassify

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Donald Trump said he had a standing order to declassify all documents he took to Mar-a-Lago as he often worked from home. Kash Patel backs that up. He also said that the GSA made mistakes when they packed the boxes, sending some the they should not have sent. The former DNI John Ratcliffe states that the President has the ultimate declassification powers. Donald Trump as the chief executive, not agencies, had the power.

There is a difference of opinion on this issue. However, one caveat. It is the raid and the manner of the raid of a former President’s (and potential future candidate’s) home and office by his opponent that is the real question.

THE NATIONAL REVIEW

Phillip Klein, Editor of the Conservative National Review, wrote that the standing order argument is “patently absurd.”

[We should note here that The National Review is anti-Trump. It might not affect Mr. Klein’s opinion but to simply say it’s conservative is not honest. What Mr. Klein offers here is opinion.]

Whatever anybody thinks about the FBI’s actions at Mar-a-Lago, can we all agree that Donald Trump’s claim — that there was a “standing order” that said whatever he brought to his Florida residence was automatically declassified — is patently absurd?

Consider all the times that Trump was at Mar-a-Lago during his presidency and worked out of there. Are we to believe that each and every document he brought with him there, no matter how sensitive, was immediately declassified and thus widely available for people to see?

[Widely available?]

If this ridiculous policy were actually even true, it would raise a different set of serious questions about Trump’s recklessness in handling sensitive documents.

Again, let’s debate whether it was FBI overreach to take the extraordinary step of searching a former president’s home. But questioning FBI actions does not require taking everything Trump says at face value.

CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY

Trump supporter Mark Levin says the President’s power over declassification is in the constitution.

DONALD TRUMP CITED EXECUTIVE BUSH AND OBAMA AS SUPPORTING HIS AUTHORITY OVER DECLASSIFICATION.

You decide if the President has steps he must take or should take to declassify. That includes prior presidents, not just Donald Trump. Check out the Executive Orders from 2003 and 2015. They supersede the 1993 Executive Order.

BUSH EXECUTIVE ORDER OF NOVEMBER 2003

OBAMA EXECUTIVE ORDER OF FEBRUARY 2015 

BRET BAIER

Bret Baier referenced Barck Obama.

POLITIFACT

The issue came up in 2017 with the left-leaning Politifact weighing in. This concerned a case of Donald Trump sharing information with a Russian foreign minister and a Russian ambassador.

From the article:

The president’s classification and declassification powers are broad

Experts agreed that the president, as commander-in-chief, is ultimately responsible for classification and declassification. When someone lower in the chain of command handles classification and declassification duties — which is usually how it’s done — it’s because they have been delegated to do so by the president directly, or by an appointee chosen by the president.

The majority ruling in the 1988 Supreme Court case Department of Navy vs. Egan — which addressed the legal recourse of a Navy employee who had been denied a security clearance — addresses this line of authority.

“The President, after all, is the ‘Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States’” according to Article II of the Constitution, the court’s majority wrote. “His authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security … flows primarily from this constitutional investment of power in the President, and exists quite apart from any explicit congressional grant.”

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, said that such authority gives the president the authority to “classify and declassify at will.”

In fact, Robert F. Turner, associate director of the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, said that “if Congress were to enact a statute seeking to limit the president’s authority to classify or declassify national security information, or to prohibit him from sharing certain kinds of information with Russia, it would raise serious separation of powers constitutional issues.”

The official documents governing classification and declassification stem from executive orders. But even these executive orders aren’t necessarily binding on the president. The president is not “obliged to follow any procedures other than those that he himself has prescribed,” Aftergood said. “And he can change those.”

Two Caveats

The first caveat: While Trump has the power to declassify information, he doesn’t appear to have done that in this case, at least at the time the story broke. [They are referencing the 2017 case, not this current case]

The second caveat: Is it wise?

Their Ruling

“The minute the president speaks about it to someone, he has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process.” They didn’t think it was necessarily wise.

FINALLY

Sorry, couldn’t resist pointing out the hypocrisy when the Left feigns seriousness.

BONUS

As a bonus, we give you Adam Schiff. He claims there is no evidence Donald Trump declassified documents. It’s a lie. For years, statements and documents from former DNI Ric Grenell, former DNI John Ratcliffe, President Trump himself, and documents from the White House and executive agencies are in the public record showing he has declassified many, many documents.


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