Former CIA director says Trump ally’s claim that he could instantly declassify documents is ‘pretty much BS’

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Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

  • A Trump ally said the former president had declassified all the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago.

  • Kash Patel said that as president, Trump had the power to instantly declassify government documents.

  • A former CIA chief discounted the claim, saying there is a thorough declassification process.

The former CIA director dismissed a claim by a Donald Trump ally that the former president had the power to instantly declassify government documents, calling it “pretty much BS.”

Leon Panetta, who served as the defense secretary and CIA Director under the Obama administration, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday that there is a process for declassifying confidential government information and requires other agencies to sign off on it.

“If presidents want to declassify, they have to follow that process which basically requires that it be referred to the agencies that are responsible for classifying that material,” Panetta told CNN. “They have something to say as to whether or not that material should be declassified.”

“So there is nothing that I’m aware of that indicates that a formal step was taken by this president to, in fact, declassify anything. Right now, this is pretty much BS,” he added.

Panetta’s comments came after Kash Patel, a former Pentagon official under Trump, claimed that Trump had declassified all the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago.

Patel told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that, as president, Trump had the power to “literally stand over a set of documents and say, ‘These are now declassified,'” as can be seen in a clip shared by Mediaite.

“This is a key fact that most Americans are missing: President Trump, as a sitting president, is a unilateral authority for declassification,” Patel said.

FBI agents seized about 20 boxes from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida during their raid last week, including 11 sets of marked top-secret documents that were designated to remain only in a secure government facility.

Trump previously argued that while he was president, he had a “standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified,” according to a statement read out on Fox News on Friday.

But there is no evidence he followed procedure to do so.

According to The New York Times, “original classification authorities” in federal departments and agencies have the power to classify and declassify information.

While presidents can declassify documents without having to go to other government authorities for approval, this is very rare, The Times reported.

Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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