William Barr Skeptical of Trump Declassification Claim; Trump Responds

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
September 3, 2022 Updated: September 4, 2022

The claim by former President Donald Trump that he declassified the documents with classified markings found at Mar-a-Lago was challenged Sept. 2 as “highly improbable” by former Attorney General William Barr.

“I can’t think of a legitimate reason why they could be taken out of the government, away from the government, if they’re classified,” Barr, who was attorney general during the Trump and George H.W. Bush administrations, said during an appearance on Fox News.

“I frankly am skeptical of this claim that ‘I declassified everything,’ because, frankly, I think it’s highly improbable and second, if in fact, he stood over scores of boxes not really knowing what was in them, and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse, and show such recklessness that it’s almost worse than taking the documents.”

Trump publicly ordered in October 2020 the “total declassification” of “any and all documents” related to the U.S. investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion, as well as all documents related to the use of a private email server by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

However, then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in a sworn declaration filed in court shortly after that the order did not “require the declassification or release of any particular documents” and that Trump delegated the declassification to Barr, whose department ran the shoddy Russia-Trump investigation. The Department of Justice also said it was told as much by the White House. Trump recently pointed to a Jan. 19, 2021, memorandum he issued declassifying other documents.

Other former Trump administration officials, such as Kash Patel, now an EpochTV host, have said that Trump declassified a number of documents, supporting Trump’s claim.

Trump Responds

Barr was known as a staunch Trump defender after becoming attorney general in 2019 but towards the end of the administration, he publicly diverged from Trump on a number of issues, including alleged election fraud.

In a statement on his Truth Social network after Barr’s comments, Trump said that the former attorney general is a Republican in name only, or a RINO, “who was so afraid of being Impeached that he became a captive to the Radical Left Democrats.”

“Barr never fought the way he should have for Election Integrity, and so much else. He started off OK as A.G., but faded fast—Didn’t have courage or stamina. People like that will never Make America Great Again!” Trump added.

White House bunker update
President Donald Trump walks with Attorney General William Barr, left, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, center, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, right, and others from the White House to visit St. John’s Church in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump also said that Barr acted too slowly on the report from former special counsel Robert Mueller, which found no coordination or cooperation between Trump or his campaign and Russia, and knocked Barr for not releasing the laptop computer once owned by Hunter Biden before the 2020 election.

“The Laptop information should have been released BEFORE the Rigged Election, not after it, for the VOTERS TO SEE,” Trump said.

Barr has defended not making public the existence of a federal investigation into Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, before the election, saying that it would have affected the outcome.

On the Raid

On Fox, Barr also said the raid appeared to be justified, after reviewing the search warrant and other documents that have been made public.

“People say this was unprecedented, but it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club,” Barr said. “How long is the government going to try to get that back?”

According to the unredacted portions of the search warrant affidavit, authored by an FBI agent, Trump’s team handed over documents in June after agreeing to the transfer of others months earlier. After the June transfer, a Trump lawyer was said to have signed a sworn declaration stating that Mar-a-Lago was searched thoroughly for any other materials with classified markings.

The government came to believe Mar-a-Lago still housed other such documents, though, leading to the request for a warrant, which was executed on Aug. 8 after being approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

“The facts are starting to show that they were being jerked around,” Barr said. “And so, how long do they wait?”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.