WASHINGTON — A senior Democratic lawmaker said he hasn’t seen any evidence that materials the FBI seized from Donald Trump’s home were properly declassified, casting doubt on the former president’s explanations.
“And the idea that 18 months after the fact Donald Trump could simply announce, ‘Well, I’m retroactively declassifying, or whatever I took home had the effect of declassifying them,’ is absurd,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Trump said Friday that everything taken by federal agents at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Aug. 8 was “all declassified” and “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything.” Some of the former president’s supporters have claimed he has the power to declassify documents on his own.
Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney have asked U.S. intelligence to provide a damage assessment of the seized records. They include the U.S. government’s top secrecy rating of “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” according to a search warrant inventory unsealed Friday.
“We should determine whether there was any effort during the presidency to go through the process of declassification,” Schiff said. “I’ve seen no evidence of that, nor have they presented any evidence of that.”
While a president can request or initiate a declassification, the original classifying agency “must undergo a process to complete the declassification,” according to former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade.
Based on the warrant, prosecutors indicated they are exploring possible violations of the federal Espionage Act among other allegations.
In Trump’s latest response to the search on his Truth Social platform, he argued that the documents were covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege and shouldn’t have been taken.
Fox News earlier reported Trump’s team “was informed” that some boxes and documents were covered by attorney-client privilege. Citing sources it didn’t identify, Fox also said some records could be covered by executive privilege.
In June, at least one lawyer for the former president signed a statement declaring all of the classified material stored at Mar-a-Lago was returned to the government, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing people with knowledge of the document.
The written declaration came after Jay Bratt, a senior official in the Justice Department’s national security division, visited Trump’s residence on June 3, the Times said. The statement could mean Trump or his aides were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators about the material being stored at Mar-a-Lago, according to the report.©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.