Former president Donald Trump’s legal team could pose the argument that the commander-in-chief has absolute authority to declassify whatever documents he wants and that the “primary” law regarding handling of US classified information does not apply to the president.
Trump legal team to suggest president above the law regarding classified info
A newly unsealed FBI document about the investigation at Mar-a-Lago not only offers new details about the probe but also reveals clues about the arguments former President Donald Trump’s legal team intends to make.
A May 25 letter from one of his lawyers, attached as an exhibit to the search affidavit, advances a broad view of presidential power, asserting that the commander-in-chief has absolute authority to declassify whatever he wants — and also that the “primary” law governing the handling of US classified information simply doesn’t apply to the president himself.
The arguments weren’t persuasive enough to the Justice Department to prevent an FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this month, and the affidavit in any event makes clear that investigators are focused on more recent activity — long after Trump left the White House and lost the legal authorities that came with it. Even so, the letter suggests that a defense strategy anchored around presidential powers, a strategy employed during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation when Trump actually was president, may again be in play as the probe proceeds.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Trump’s legal team might look for ways to distinguish a former president from other citizens given the penalties imposed over the years for mishandling handling government secrets, including a nine-year prison sentence issued to a former National Security Agency contractor who stored two decades’ worth of classified documents at his Maryland home.