Former top Pence aide: Trump’s declassification claim “absurd”

Former president Trump’s claim this week that presidents can declassify documents “even by thinking about it” did not square with former vice president Mike Pence’s top aide.

Driving the news: Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, called Trump’s assertion “absurd” in an interview with CBS News on Friday.

What he’s saying: “That’s absurd, obviously,” Short said in response to a question about Trump’s remarks. “And I think it would make it very difficult for the intelligence community to have a classification system if that were the case.”

  • Short said neither he nor the former vice president shared that view or approach to handling classified materials.

Catch up quick: Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that there “doesn’t have to be a process” for a president to deem a document declassified.

  • “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified,'” Trump said.
  • “Even by thinking about it, because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it. … There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be.”

The big picture: Classified documents are at the center of the Department of Justice’s investigation into Trump and the former president’s ongoing legal battle with the DOJ.

  • Since the FBI seized a trove of government papers from Mar-a-Lago, some of which were labeled “top secret,” Trump has repeatedly claimed he declassified them while he was still in office.
  • The Justice Department contends that the records belong to the government, not Trump.
  • After a Trump-appointed lower court judge ordered federal officials to halt their review of the materials, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the DOJ could resume reviewing the recovered documents.
  • Since the court ruling, intelligence officials have begun poring over the files as part of a national security risk assessment.

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