During an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity at Mar-a-Lago, which was raided last month by the FBI in search of classified documents, former President Donald Trump claimed the president can declassify material “even by thinking about it.”
When Hannity asked about the declassification process, Trump replied: “There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it.”
“Different people see different things. But as I understand it, there doesn’t have to be. If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified. Even by thinking about it,” he asserted.
“It doesn’t have to be a process. It can be a process but it doesn’t have to be. You’re the president. You make that decision. So when you send it [to Mar-a-Lago or “wherever”], it’s declassified. We — I declassified everything,” Trump insisted, even though his lawyers have not made that claim in court.
On another legal front, Trump was accused earlier Wednesday, along with his three oldest children, of business and tax fraud in a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump summed up his defense to Hannity: “a very powerful disclaimer.”
James said investigators in her office compiled evidence showing that for years, Trump “fraudulently inflated” real estate values “by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system.” Trump’s use of “objectively false numbers” constituted “intentional deliberate fraud” rather than “an honest mistake,” she added.
Hannity asked Trump about the process of determining the value of his properties.
“Do you put in a caveat that actually says [that] these are our valuations?” he asked. “Because I don’t know a lending institution or bank or financial institution that would lend money to anybody and just go by the borrower’s estimation or evaluation of a particular property.”
“We have a disclaimer,” Trump replied. “My people put it together. I would look at it, and it looked fine. But it’s not overly important. What’s important is the property. I have the best property. What happened, Sean, is we would have a disclaimer right on the front. It basically says, you know, get your own people, you’re at your own risk, this was done by management, it wasn’t done by us.”
“So, don’t rely on the statement that you’re getting,” Trump continued, paraphrasing passages of financial statements of the sort that were given to Congress and the press years ago by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer. Such a disclaimer may in fact protect Trump, some experts have said.
“By the way, it goes on for like a page and a half. It’s a very big disclaimer. It’s a very powerful disclaimer,” Trump said. “It basically says to an institution, ‘You are going to loan money. You have to go out and make sure that you get your own appraisers, your own lawyers, everything.’”