Trump insists there is no ‘ritual’ to declassifying US secrets ‘at least in my opinion’

‘I’m allowed to take these documents – classified or not classified. And frankly, when I have them, they become unclassified,’ Trump says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 14 September 2023 22:11 BST
Related video: Megyn Kelly ruthlessly interrogates Trump for elevating Dr. Fauci

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Donald Trump insisted that there’s no “ritual” to declassifying secret information as he argued that he was allowed to have the boxes of files found at Mar-a-Lago which led to one of the indictments against the former president.

Mr Trump was speaking to Megyn Kelly on SiriusXM when he returned to one of his familiar talking points, calling Special Counsel Jack Smith “deranged”.

“We have a deranged guy named Jack Smith who has been overturned at the Supreme Court a number of times, and he gets overturned ... because he goes too far,” Mr Trump told Ms Kelly. “They don't even mention the Presidential Records Act. This is all about the Presidential Records Act.”

“I'm allowed to have these documents, I'm allowed to take these documents – classified or not classified. And frankly, when I have them, they become unclassified. People think you have to go through a ritual – you don't, at least in my opinion, you don't,” Mr Trump added.

In September of last year, Mr Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News that he was able to declassify documents while in office “even by thinking about it”.

“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” he said at the time.

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified,” he added. “You’re the president — you make that decision.”

While presidents do have the right to declassify information, there usually is a process for doing that, such as working with intelligence agencies or members of the Cabinet to assess possible risks to national security by releasing such information.

Responding to Mr Trump’s comments to Ms Kelly, Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that it was “another public confession. Like taking candy from a baby”.

“Someone should tell him, that the US isn’t governed by opinions, it’s governed by laws,” one user said.

Conservative anti-Trump lawyer George Conway also noted that Mr Trump appeared to be making comments putting him in further legal jeopardy, saying that “interviewers should be required to read him his rights”.

“Credit to @megynkelly for letting him confess to the crimes in the indictment. She’ll see this played at the trial by the government,” Bradley Moss added.

“I want Dude to say this to Jack Smith in open court during his criminal trial,” Tony Michaels said.

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