Monday, 17 Jun 2024

Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump's claim documents he took were automatically declassified


Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump's claim documents he took were automatically declassified

The National Archives has informed former president Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records which show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president, according to multiple sources.

In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, "The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records."

The 16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president's awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump's mishandling of classified documents.

The records may also provide insight into Trump's intent and whether he willfully disregarded what he knew to be clearly established protocols, according to a source familiar with recent testimony provided to the grand jury by former top Trump officials.

Trump and his allies have insisted that as president, Trump did not have to follow a specific process to declassify documents. At a CNN town hall last week Trump repeated the claim that simply by removing classified documents from the White House he had declassified them. "And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them," Trump said.

According to the letter, Trump tried to block the special counsel from accessing the 16 records by asserting a claim of "constitutionally based privilege." But in her letter, Wall rejects that claim, stating that the special counsel's office has represented that it "is prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury's investigation."

The special Ccunsel also told the Archives that the evidence is "not practically available from another source."

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