Congressman Adam Schiff responded with derision on Sunday to Donald Trump’s assertion that the president of the United States can declassify top-secret materials “just by thinking about it”, without going through a formal review process.
Asked by host Jake Tapper to respond to comments the former president made to Fox’s Sean Hannity last week, Mr Schiff quipped that Mr Trump’s remarks “don't demonstrate much intelligence of any kind”.
He added that if they truly represented the former president’s beliefs, it made him “more dangerous” than Democrats and his other critics previously believed.
“With that view he could simply spout off on anything he read in a presidential daily brief...to a visiting Russian delegation or any delegation, and simply say, ‘Well, I thought about it, and therefore when the words came out of my mouth they were declassified’,” warned Mr Schiff, while appearing on CNN’s State of the Union.
The congressman’s burn aside, there are some disagreements over what power a president has to declassify information, with some experts insisting that a formal process is necessary while advocates of more executive power believe otherwise. Notably, however, Donald Trump’s lawyers have not repeated the claim that the documents were declassified in any court filings thus far.
The former president remains at the center of an investigation into the allegedly illegal retention of presidential documents including classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
He has continued to spin numerous defences for his actions as well as bizarre theories about the investigation itself; in the same interview with Mr Hannity last week, Mr Trump seemed to seriously suggest that the FBI was looking for more of Hillary Clinton’s emails at his home.
Separately, the former president and his aides remain engulfed by two criminal investigations related to their efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6, in Georgia and Washington DC.
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