Former President Donald Trump was more of a threat than anyone may have realized because he was clueless enough to believe he could declassify sensitive top secret documents with his mind — and put the safety of the nation at risk, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday.
CNN’s Jake Tapper played a clip on “State of The Union” of Trump insisting earlier this week to Sean Hannity that he could declassify anything just by saying so — even simply by merely “thinking about it.”
“Is that how it works?” Tapper asked Schiff.
“That’s not how it works,” Schiff responded. “Those comments don’t demonstrate much intelligence of any kind. If you could simply declassify by thinking about it, then, frankly, if that’s his view, he’s even more dangerous than we may have thought,” he told Tapper.
Distributing or blurting out information about the identities of spies or the location and details of weapons systems could cost countless lives, experts have warned. Yet Trump’s former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, told The Washington Post that the former president was disdainful of the secrets shield and had no comprehension of its importance.
“His sense was that the people who are in the intel business are incompetent, and he knew better,” Kelly told the Post. “He didn’t believe in the classification system.”
People “work hard” to obtain important intelligence, said Schiff, who is serving on the House panel investigating last year’s Jan. 6 insurrection.
“People put their lives at risk to get that information. That information protects American lives. And for him to treat it so cavalierly shows both what a continuing danger the man is, but also how very little regard he has for anything but himself,” the lawmaker added.
In Trump’s view, he could ”simply spout off on anything he read in a presidential daily brief or anything that he was briefed on by the CIA director to a visiting Russian delegation … and simply say, ‘Well, I thought about it and therefore, when the words came out of my mouth, they were declassified,”’ Schiff scoffed.
A process is required for declassifying documents. It cannot be done in secret because several federal departments and officials would need to be informed to handle the material differently. For one thing, the records would be then accessible to the Freedom of Information Act and other records requests by the press and public, former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton has pointed out.
So far, only QAnon disciple and former Trump administration Defense Department aide Kash Patel has backed up Trump’s claim that he had a “standing order” to declassify everything that was taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
Court-appointed Special Master Raymond Dearie, who is reviewing records seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago, has challenged Trump’s attorneys to prove that any of the documents marked “classified” had actually somehow been declassified by Trump.
Schiff on Sunday also complained to Tapper that the Department of Justice was too slow to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.