Trump Says You Can Declassify Something 'Even by Thinking About It'

Former President Donald Trump is defending his handling of sensitive government records, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that the president can declassify materials with just a thought.

Trump made the remarks Wednesday evening in response to litigation that's increasingly centering on whether Trump properly declassified thousands of documents seized by FBI agents from his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. Speaking to Hannity at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated his claim that he declassified the documents in addition to declaring a sweeping new ability for the president to do so.

"You can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it. Because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending," said Trump. "And it doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn't have to be. You're the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it's declassified. Because I declassified everything."

Donald Trump at Rally
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally to support local candidates at the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 3, 2022, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday that the president can declassify documents "even by thinking about it." Spencer Platt/Getty Images

FBI agents carried out a court-approved search of Trump's home in August as part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into whether the former president was hoarding classified and other sensitive documents. Trump responded with a civil lawsuit that successfully sought the appointment of a special master, an independent arbiter to sort out private materials hauled away by FBI agents.

DOJ lawyers have argued in court filings that Trump has not proven that he declassified the documents. Trump's legal team additionally has not argued that the documents were declassified.

Judge Raymond Dearie, the recently appointed special master in the case, asked Trump's lawyers to provide details on the former president's declassification of documents. Trump's legal team earlier this week objected and suggested that doing so would mean disclosing their defense to a potential future indictment of the former president.

Dearie reportedly told Trump's lawyers during a hearing Tuesday that they cannot "have your cake and eat it too."

Others have disputed Trump's claim that he declassified documents he took to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency—including members of his inner circle.

Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump's acting chief of staff from January 2019 to March 2020, said during a Newsmax interview in August that there's "a formal structure" to declassifying documents.

"You can't just sort of stand over a box of documents, wave your hand and say these are all declassified," he said. "That's not how the system works."

Other high-ranking members of Trump's administration, including former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former national security adviser John Bolton, said they were unaware of any "standing order" to declassify documents taken to his residence.

Newsweek reached out to the DOJ for comment.