One thing that can’t be disputed is that if Trump had created such an edict, there should be plenty of evidence left behind. Not just evidence in the form of some record of this order, but evidence of how it affected every document he smuggled down to Florida.
That’s because when a document gets either classified or declassified, it involves far more than just stamping some red letters at the top of the first page. The associated departments and offices are notified when the classification of a document changes, making it clear whether or not it’s permissible to use, or not use, a document in public statements and analysis. After all, it would be more than a little embarrassing to have classified information released in an afternoon press conference by an official unaware that the status of information had changed, and more than a little frustrating to have statements limited by inability to use information that had been declassified.
In the case of Trump’s claimed standing order, that never happened. There seems to be no record, anywhere, of anyone being informed that a document had been declassified because it was not on the grounds of the swamp palace.
And as CNN notes, Trump’s claimed order apparently did not pass beyond the bounds of his own imagination. Because no one else seems to remember it.
Eighteen former top Trump administration officials tell CNN they never heard any such order issued during their time working for Trump, and that they believe the claim to be patently false.
Not only did these officials call the idea of such an order “patently ridiculous” and “total nonsense,” they note that even if Trump was comfortable opening up the chest of nuclear and military secrets, no one else would be.
Declassifying such documents requires following a process—a process that constrains even the president. By law. Even in areas where the White House can simply declare a document declassified, regulations still require a record of each document being cleared. None of that appears to exist in this case. Because, as others inside the Trump White House said, this whole idea is “total fiction.”
There’s one thing that remains true in every one of the stages of a Trump scandal: Trump lies.
He lied about having the document. He lied about the reasons for the search. He lied about the standing order. And yes, along the way he took the time to lie about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
It would be nice if while he’s issuing orders, Judge Bruce Reinhart would issue an order insisting that Trump provide evidence of this standing order. He won’t because Trump isn’t making this claim in court. He’s just making it everywhere else.