Former President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that he had declassified the trove of documents seized by FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago last month – and warned that if he was indicted for improperly handling government records, “I just think it would just tear this country apart.”
The 45th president also claimed during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Justice Department had “no reason” to charge him with any crime “other than if they’re just sick and deranged, which is always possible because I did absolutely, you’ve seen the legal papers, absolutely nothing wrong.”
Federal investigators seized more than 11,000 pages of government records at the Palm Beach, Fla., resort on Aug. 8, including more than 100 documents marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” “SECRET,” or “TOP SECRET” and dozens of empty folders marked with “CLASSIFIED” banners.
The Justice Department is currently waging a court fight to continue a review of what was taken from Trump’s home after a federal judge ordered the appointment of a neutral third party to go through the documents to assess the former president’s claims of attorney-client privilege, executive privilege and other protections.
Trump insisted Thursday that he had given verbal orders while president to declassify the documents that wound up at Mar-a-Lago.
“I have the absolute right to declassify, absolute,” he said. “A president has that absolute right, and a lot of people aren’t even challenging that anymore.”
The former president’s lawyers have not gone so far in their court filings, arguing Monday that “there still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents” and that Trump “has an unfettered right of access to his Presidential records even though he may not ‘own’ them.”
Trump also laid the blame for the seizure on the “radical left-run” National Archives and Records Administration – and a ”weaponized” Department of Justice and FBI.
“If you look at the … [Presidential Records] act that was passed, it talks about what you can do, what you can’t do, how you negotiate with NARA,” he said. “And then if you look at what’s running NARA, it’s radical left-run, radical, radical left.
“And then you take a look at Hillary with her 33,000 emails that were deleted, and you take a look at Obama and others, and people say Trump’s gotten treated very, very unfairly,” he added. “Very, very unfairly. You just take a look.”
The former president also said no one from the Department of Justice reached out to him prior to the raid and claimed the government and his legal team “were having very positive discussions. All of a sudden, we get raided by the FBI.
“We were having very, very good and positive discussions. Then, we get raided by the FBI. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it.”
Even if Trump is indicted by the Biden administration, the former president vowed Thursday that it would not prevent him from making a third straight run for the White House in 2024.
“I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it [an indictment],” he told Hewitt. “And as you know, if a thing like that happened, I would have no prohibition against running. You know that.”
“But I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before,” Trump added. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”
“What kind of problems, Mr. President?” Hewitt asked.
“I think they’d have big problems, big problems. I just don’t think they’d stand for it. They will not, they will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes,” answered Trump, who denied he meant the comment as an incitement of violence by his fans.
“That’s not inciting,” he said. “I’m just saying what my opinion is. I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it.”