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'That's absurd': Former Pence chief of staff bashes Trump declassification claim

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/24/2022 Ryan King
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Former President Donald Trump's contention that he could declassify material "even by thinking about it" is "absurd," according to a top adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Marc Short, the former chief of staff to the ex-vice president, shrugged off Trump's claim about presidential declassification powers and noted that Pence never operated under that premise.

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"That's absurd, obviously," Short told CBS News. "And I think it would make it very difficult for the intelligence community to have a classification system if that was the case."

During an interview Wednesday, Trump asserted once more that he declassified material seized from Mar-a-Lago. Critics have argued while presidents have broad discretion to declassify material, they must follow a process.

"There doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it," Trump told Fox News's Sean Hannity. "If you're the president of the United States, 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 it. And there doesn't have to be a process."

Government officials have collected documents with classified markings from Mar-a-Lago on at least three separate occasions, including in January, June, and famously August. During the Aug. 8 search and seizure, FBI officials collected over 100 documents bearing classified markings, according to court documents.

Documents ranged from "CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET information," according to the DOJ, and even lawyers for Trump conceded in court documents for their special master request that "it would be appropriate for the special master to possess a Top Secret/SCI security clearance."

DOJ lawyers have pressed Trump's legal team about his declassification claims in courts, but they have largely danced around the issue in legal documentation. Authorities are investigating possible obstruction of justice and violations of the Espionage Act, according to an unsealed warrant for the August raid.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials have recently resumed a national security risk assessment of the Mar-a-Lago documents, according to Politico.

In addition to bashing Trump's declassification claims, Short also fielded a question about whether his old boss, Pence, is gearing up for a 2024 presidential debut as he visits battleground states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

"He's going to be doing a lot of House races and governors' races. And I think that that's where his focus is going to be," Short said. "At some point next year, he'll figure out where he thinks that he's being called to serve next. ... But right now, his focus is on the midterm election cycle."

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Short has notably been cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee and the DOJ panel assessing the Capitol riot, having delivered testimony to both. He has also helped encourage others in Pence's orbit to cooperate with the committee, per Axios.

During his interview with CBS, Short also stated his belief that Pence testifying before the panel would set a risky precedent for the country.

 

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Tags: Mike Pence, News, Donald Trump, Mar-a-Lago, Justice Department, Justice

Original Author: Ryan King

Original Location: 'That's absurd': Former Pence chief of staff bashes Trump declassification claim

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