Either Donald Trump is a dumbass and doesn’t know how the president declassifies information, despite being president (sic), or he’s lying. Obviously, it’s both. He’s a lying dumbass.
There’s a talking point among MAGAts that Donald Trump had a standing order while he was president (sic) that any document brought from the Oval Office to the White House residence was immediately deemed declassified. Former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton called that “complete fiction.” In fact, more than two dozen other Trump staffers have debunked this claim, with several offering responses that were not as generous as Bolton’s “complete fiction.” More than one called it “bullshit.”
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said “part and parcel of any act of declassification is communicating that act to all others who possess the same information.”
The president, even an orange stupid baby president (sic) who believes in invisible airplanes and Revolutionary Airports, can’t declassify information without telling anyone. How would other agencies and government officials in intelligence know which information is classified, secret, top secret, etc, etc, if they’re not told? There has to be some official documentation.
I think the belief he can declassify stuff simply by moving it from one room to another cancels out the impressive feat of memorizing and repeating “man, woman, person, camera, TV.”
This belief that classified becomes declassified, and in the open domain, simply because Trump transferred it from the Oval Office to his bedroom where he could go over Emmanuel Macron’s sex life (ooh-la-la and oui oui) while dripping hamberder ketchup on it is totally bonkers, but they’ve extended it to his residence at Mar-a-Lago.
And if the dirt on Macron is declassified, let’s see it. Netflix has been kinda boring of late.
Even if it did work this way, was the information declassified as soon as it was removed from the White House, while Trump was still president (sic), thus declassified by the time he landed in Florida on January 21, 2021, when he wasn’t president (sic) as Joe Biden was sworn in while Trump and the documents were in the air (that is if the documents were on the same plane as Trump. I haven’t heard yet when or how they were transferred to Florida).
And how did Trump pick these documents? Why did he choose these specific documents to “declassify” and take home? This is a guy who didn’t pay attention to his daily press briefings, where intelligence officials often hid the most serious stuff from Trump out of a lack of trust in the guy who had already given away top secret information to the Russians (they also stopped giving him the daily briefings after his January 6 coup attempt, but then-President-Elect Biden was still receiving his). So, how was Trump aware of what was in what file? I can’t believe this guy spent hours rifling through thousands of pages of binders. He had help.
One detail Trumpers keep omitting while spreading the declassification bullshit is that none of this stuff belonged to Trump. And lying deflections about what other presidents took home doesn’t change the fact that Donald Trump stole these documents. Even if President Obama stole 33 million classified documents and sent them to Chicago (he didn’t), it wouldn’t change the fact that Trump stole documents.
According to news reports, Trump was told the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago were not his to do with as he pleased. Several staffers, including former deputy White House counsel, Patrick Philbin, told Trump they were illegally retained and classified. According to The New York Times, Trump’s reply was, “It’s not theirs, it’s mine.” No reason has been provided yet as to why he believed it belonged to him. Did the guy take all the White House silverware, tiny shampoo bottles, toilet paper, and lightbulbs with him too (I did that cartoon two years ago)?
If there’s evidence that Donald Trump was informed the material didn’t belong to him, and he kept it anyway, that helps the Justice Department build a case against him. For once in his life, Donald Trump can’t claim ignorance.
The president has broad authority on declassification, but there are limits. In October 2020, Trump tweeted that he “fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
After the tweet, news outlets demanded to see all of newly declassified documents on the Russia investigation. but Trump’s own Justice Department protested and Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows signed a court declaration stating the tweets didn’t mean what they actually said, and a court agreed, “We are not ordering disclosure. The official process wasn’t followed.”
When Trump had White House Spokesgoon Sarah Huckabee Sanders announce that all documents relating to the FBI’s investigation of campaign goon and useful idiot to Russia, Carter Page, a court once again prevented the press from seeing the documents with a judge stating that “despite the power of the president over the restriction of public access to government secrets, mere White House declarations aren’t enough to make something declassified.” The judge pointed out that “DOJ did not receive at any time a declassification order related to the materials remaining at issue in this case.”
Basically, temper tantrums don’t declassify documents. Maybe ketchup tantrums do. I don’t know.
It happened a third time with a federal court once again keeping material Trump “declassified” classified saying, “Declassification cannot occur unless designated officials follow specified procedures.”
So let’s get this straight. According to federal judges, presidents can not automatically declassify information through stupid rage tweets and presidents can not declassify something by having spokesgoons announce it to the press. But according to idiots like Kash Patel, the president “can literally stand over a set of documents and say ‘These are now declassified.’” Sorry, Kash, you bug-eye goon you, the president LITERALLY can not. And he can’t do it by stealing documents.
But even if a president can issue a “standing order” to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence, there’s no evidence Trump ever did. At least 18 former administration officials knocked that down, with one calling it “bullshit.”
Former Chief-of-Staff John Kelly said, “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.” Mick Mulvaney, who succeeded Kelly said he was “not aware of a general standing order” during his time in the position. It seems that at least one of these two the Chiefs-of-Staff would be aware of such a ridiculous order. Let’s ask Mark Meadows and see what the third says.
One anonymous former senior White House official pointed out that the “standing order” wouldn’t work. “Total nonsense,” said. “If that’s true, where is the order with his signature on it? If that were the case, there would have been tremendous pushback from the Intel Community and DoD, which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill.”
Signed document of a “standing order” to declassify? Hell, Trump didn’t even tweet it. Like with the Big Lie that Trump won the election and there was massive election fraud, there is no evidence. Just like in that situation, the only fraud to be found has come from Trump.
So which is it? Is Donald Trump a complete dumbass or is he lying? I think it’s both because it would take a complete dumbass to try to spin such a stupid and ridiculous lie.
I’d have an easier time in believing in the hamberder wand. And dammit. Now I really want a hamberder…er, hamburger.
Creative note: I wrote this cartoon last Friday, pushed it aside, and this morning, it appealed to me again…so I went with it. I think it’s funny that readers send me ideas when I can’t get to all of my own.
Music note: I listened to Jefferson Starship/Airplane while drawing this. No, not Starship or any of that “We Built This City” shit.
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