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Trump’s Flip-Flopping Ex-Chief of Staff Explains the Process

Mulvaney offered some surprises about Trump’s team trying to declassify information.

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In an interview published on Friday, former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared to cast doubt on claims made by former President Donald Trump’s team by explaining the process for declassifying documents.

In an interview with Newsmax, Mulvaney discussed the recent FBI raid of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Mulvaney served as Trump’s acting chief of staff from January 2019 to March 2020.

Mulvaney said on the show National Report, “I was surprised by some of the reporting on some of the comments by some of the president’s inner circle.”

Mulvaney confirmed that “any president of the United States” has broad authority to declassify documents. “However, there is an established protocol for doing so. It’s not enough to wave your hand over a stack of papers and declare them all declassified. The system does not function that way.”

Mulvaney made reference to declassified documents from Trump’s first impeachment that detailed conversations with the Ukrainian president.

A few members of the president’s inner circle are currently making the argument that “you don’t just sort of get to say off the top of your head, ‘oh, everything that I see today,'” he said.

If classified documents were brought to and kept at the former president’s residence, in violation of federal statutes such as the Espionage Act, then that is at the heart of the Mar-a-Lago raid. Trump’s legal team has said the documents’ status as declassified provides a potential defense argument. Thus far, the FBI investigation has not led to any criminal charges.

While Mulvaney claims no such standing order existed during his tenure as chief of staff, he does concede that such a directive could have been implemented at a later date.

He claimed that if Trump claims that classified materials at Mar-a-Lago were declassified, “there would be a paper trail” for him to produce.

Trump’s team told Fox News in a statement last Friday: “President Trump, in order to prepare for work the next day, often took documents, including classified documents, to the residence. Documents he took from the Oval Office to the residence were automatically declassified at that point per his standing order.”

Reporters from Newsweek have contacted Trump’s office for comment.

Mulvaney is not the first person to question the standing order. His immediate predecessor as chief of staff, John Kelly, told CNN on Thursday: “Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given.”

“And I can’t imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it,” Kelly said.

Mulvaney also appeared on CNN on Friday and said he had witnessed Trump ripping up documents. There have been previous allegations of the destruction of White House documents, such as the claim that some papers were flushed down a toilet.

There is a system in place to preserve documents, he told CNN’s Erin Burnett, but he admitted that he had seen “Our leader tore papers in half. None of the documents are secret; they are just early versions. It’s not recommended, but if you manage to find the missing pieces and tape them back together, you can get things working again.”

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