More than a dozen former top Trump administration officials have refuted former President Donald Trump’s claim that he had a “standing order” stipulating that classified documents automatically became declassified when he took them from the Oval Office to his White House residence, CNN reported Thursday.
Since the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for top-secret materials that may have been improperly taken there, Trump and his allies have claimed, among other excuses, that the former president had a “standing order” in place that declassified them.
But, according to 18 officials from his administration who spoke to CNN, no such order was ever issued.
Several officials reportedly laughed or scoffed at the notion. One called it “bullshit.”
Many of them even went on the record.
John Kelly, who was Trump’s chief of staff from 2017 to 2019, told CNN that “nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given” during his tenure.
“And I can’t imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it,” he added.
Mick Mulvaney, Kelly’s successor, also said he was not aware of any such order.
Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton called Trump’s claim “a complete fiction.” Olivia Troye, who was a homeland security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, called the idea of a blanket declassification “ludicrous.”
A president does have the authority to declassify documents, but there is a formal process involved. It’s not clear if Trump followed that process. The documents the FBI sought from Mar-a-Lago were reportedly very sensitive in nature and included materials related to nuclear weapons.
The “standing order” excuse is among a rotation of other explanations that Trump and his team have offered. Trump has also claimed baselessly that any damaging materials found by the FBI must have been planted on his property.