Last year, Donald Trump argued that he had issued a “standing order” to automatically declassify any documents he took from the White House. As it turns out, federal agencies that would know about such a thing have no record of any such order, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.
In August, after Trump made the widely doubted claim, Bloomberg said it filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice Department’s national security division and with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, requesting a copy of Trump’s alleged order.
Government attorneys confirmed in a letter to Bloomberg on Thursday that the agencies possessed “no records responsive to your request.”
The disclosure was prompted after a judge in a similar case in Massachusetts ordered the agencies to confirm whether records referencing the standing order exist, according to Bloomberg.
On Aug. 8, FBI agents with a warrant searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, retrieving boxes of secret documents the government said Trump improperly took and refused to return.
Trump immediately produced a variety of excuses. His team released a statement days later, arguing that Trump “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.”
However, even officials from his own administration cast doubt on that assertion, saying they had no recollection of any such order and describing the idea as absurd.
Trump’s own former national security adviser John Bolton said Trump’s claim was “complete fiction.”
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors indicted Trump on 37 felony counts in the case, accusing him of risking national security, mishandling classified information and obstructing government efforts to retrieve it.
A bombshell audio recording obtained by CNN this week also undermines Trump’s “standing order” defense. In the July 2021 clip, recorded at a meeting with book researchers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump is heard discussing “highly confidential” documents in his possession that he admits he did not declassify as president.
“See, as president I could have declassified it,” Trump says in the clip, after describing a document he said he obtained from the Defense Department. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
Trump has since trotted out a new excuse: He wasn’t showing off any secret documents. It was golf course plans, he said, and his talk was just “bravado.”