Although several conservative commentators were quick to amplify former President Donald Trump’s defenses that his predecessor had also improperly kept classified White House documents, others turned to call his bluff.
Fox News host Bret Baier rejected claims that former President Barack Obama had also unlawfully taken 30 million pages of documents from the House, which Trump had sought to use as evidence that the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this was politically motivated.
“There is a process” to declassify documents and remove them from the White House, Baier said. “Everything we know [about Obama’s records] followed all of those, the processes to get those documents to Chicago. … But how they were handled was done by that process.”
The National Archives and Records Administration also responded to Trump’s claims on Friday, noting it had “exclusive legal and physical custody” of Obama’s records after he left office in 2017. Obama had about 30 million pages of unclassified documents processed through the agency, and those are maintained “exclusively by NARA,” it said in a statement.
“NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area, where they are maintained exclusively by NARA,” the agency said. “Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the [Presidential Records Act], former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration.”
Trump’s claims that Obama had also unlawfully stored presidential records is just one of several defenses the former president has sought to use over the last several days. He also claimed he had “declassified” all the records that were recovered from his Mar-a-Lago home.
“Number one, it was all declassified. Number two, they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media platform Truth Social. “They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”
The Presidential Records Act mandates public ownership of all presidential records and must be preserved by each administration. When it comes to the classified documents, Trump’s lawyers argued the former president used his authority to declassify the information he took with him when he left office. Although a president has the power to do so, it’s not clear if Trump went through the appropriate process to declassify the documents.