At a CNN town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday night, former President Donald Trump continued to push blatantly false claims about the classified documents that were uncovered at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida last year.
During the event, Trump lashed out at CNN host Kaitlan Collins, calling her a “nasty person” for pressing him on the issue.
More than 300 documents marked as classified have been retrieved from the former president’s estate so far. The Department of Justice (DOJ), led by special counsel Jack Smith, is currently investigating Trump’s removal and possession of these documents, including the possibility that he obstructed officials from retrieving them and concealed his attempts to do so.
On Wednesday, Collins asked Trump to tell the world, in his own words, why he removed the documents from the White House.
“I have every right to under the Presidential Records Act,” Trump claimed. “I took what I took and it gets declassified.”
Both statements are false. Under the Presidential Records Act, an outgoing president does not have the right to take any documents they want to, and experts on that law have said that Trump’s interpretation of the law is “a lot of smoke.” Trump has never provided evidence showing that he declassified the documents in question.
The former president also used his CNN appearance to attack President Joe Biden, falsely claiming that investigators have discovered that the current president had hidden 1,850 boxes of classified material. In truth, that is the number of boxes of senatorial papers and records that Biden donated to the University of Delaware — and while classified documents were found to be in some of those boxes, it was only a few pages, not anywhere close to the number found at Mar-a-Lago.
Upon learning that classified documents were among the records, Biden’s office took immediate steps to return them to government authorities and has been cooperative in allowing investigators to search his properties for more material. Trump, meanwhile, thwarted requests from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to return the documents for almost a full year, and apparently defied a subpoena order in June that required him to return all remaining classified documents in his possession, prompting the FBI to conduct a warrant search of his estate to retrieve the remaining materials.
Trump spouted out falsehoods at the town hall so quickly that it was difficult to fact-check in real-time. At one point, Collins stopped Trump from continuing his rant about how he had “every right” to remove the documents by pointing out that his interpretation of the Presidential Records Act was wrong.
She then asked Trump whether or not he had allowed unauthorized people to view the classified documents that were once in his possession.
“Did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?” Collins asked.
“Not really. I would have the right to,” Trump said.
Collins pressed Trump to explain what he meant by “not really.” “Not that I can think of,” he responded.
The CNN host also asked Trump if he had more classified documents in his possession. Trump claimed that he didn’t, adding an important (but blatantly false) caveat: that classified documents automatically become declassified when a president removes them from the White House.
“Notice how he says that he doesn’t [have more documents] then immediately follows up with the claim that he declassified them,” the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted in response to Trump’s answer. “He didn’t [declassify documents]. So he may very well still have some.”
As the conversation surrounding classified documents heated up, Trump went on the attack against Collins. “You’re a nasty person, I tell ya,” he said when she continued to grill him on the issue, eliciting cheers from the decidedly right-wing audience.
As The Independent has pointed out, Collins joins a list of more than a dozen women who Trump has described as “nasty” for daring to challenge him or his views.
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