On Twitter this week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who in addition to his other work remains the chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, pushed back on new nonsense from Trump.
During an interview with Sean Hannity for Fox News, Donald suggested presidents could declassify government secrets just by thinking about it. “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified,’” Trump claimed. “Even by thinking about it, because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it. And there doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be.” The relevance of this strange idea — which is not actually a thing — is, of course, its potential usage in Trump’s defense against the months-long presence of highly guarded government materials marked as classified at his southern Florida resort Mar-a-Lago (valuations of which were among the numerous deceptive claims cited in newly unveiled civil litigation from New York state Attorney General Letitia James alleging financial misconduct).
“Hi,” Schiff remarked Wednesday. “House Intelligence Committee Chair here. Trump just claimed he could declassify things by saying “‘it’s declassified,’ even by thinking about it.” I know he says he’s a big “thinker” and all, but that’s not how any of this works. Not by any stretch of the imagination.” Key components of the government investigation into Trump don’t even hinge on whether materials at Mar-a-Lago were classified. Obstruction is among the potential crimes under examination, and for that possible offense, the classification status doesn’t matter. Separately, a review by a special master — meaning court-appointed third party — is underway covering materials seized in last month’s FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, and amid those proceedings, Trump’s team was resisting providing evidence of the supposed declassification of disputed materials. More recently, an appeals court panel ruled for the Justice Department in its push to access materials from Mar-a-Lago marked classified while the review of the numerous other items taken in the raid continues.
The appeals decision was the work of a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel included two nominees of Trump himself. “For our part, we cannot discern why [Trump] would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings,” the panel said. The judges also actually cited the conduct of Trump’s legal team in the special master review. “Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents,” they said. Upholding the classification status of the documents obviously provides some support to the government probe, which is also examining, in another component, the national security ramifications of the potential disclosure of these materials that warranted the classification statuses they held.