John Bolton, who served as former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months, is joining others in the national security community who are pushing back against Trump’s insistence that the classified material he unlawfully took to his Mar-a-Lago resort had been declassified.
The latest defense from Trump’s office – that the then-president had some sort of “standing order” that White House documents be deemed declassified when taken to Trump residences – is “almost certainly a lie,” Bolton told the New York Times in an interview that was published on Sunday.
“I was never briefed on any such order, procedure, policy when I came in,” said the ex-White House official.
Bolton also said that he hadn’t heard anything about Trump establishing the “order” after the national security official left the White House on less-than-friendly terms with Trump in Sept. 2019 either.
“If he were to say something like that, you would have to memorialize that, so that people would know it existed,” Bolton told the Times.
The ex-official also pointed out that because secure facilities had been built at Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s presidency, the documents wouldn’t have needed to be declassified anyway. Legal experts in the national security community have made similar claims.
Trump’s been throwing around everything but the kitchen sink in his denials of any wrongdoing ever since the FBI seized 11 sets of classified documents in the bombshell Mar-a-Lago raid last week.
The ex-president and his lawyers first accused the FBI of “planting” evidence (while simultaneously claiming that the FBI hadn’t found anything incriminating). Then Trump tried to deflect by making wild claims about ex-president Barack Obama, falsely arguing that Obama had similarly taken White House documents.
And then Trump finally copped to taking classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, with his office claiming on Friday evening that “in order to prepare for work the next day, [Trump] often took documents, including classified documents, to the residence.”
“He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them,” the office said.
While many experts have argued similarly to Bolton that such an order likely did not exist (and have poked holes in whether it would actually be valid if it did), Trump was still required by law to turn over all White House records in his possession to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of his presidency, “standing order” or no.