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    Trump Team Advances Broad View Of Presidential Powers On Classified Documents | HuffPost Latest News

    A May 25 letter from one of his lawyers, attached as an exhibit to the search affidavit, advances a broad view of presidential power, asserting that the commander-in-chief has absolute authority to declassify whatever he wants — and also that the “primary” law governing the handling of U.S. classified information simply doesn’t apply to the president himself.

    “When someone is no longer president, they’re no longer president. That’s the reality of the matter,” said Oona Hathaway, a Yale Law School professor and former lawyer in the Defense Department’s general counsel’s office. “When you’ve left office, you’ve left office. You can’t proclaim yourself to not be subject to the laws that apply to everyone else.”

    It’s not clear from the affidavit whether Trump or anyone might face charges over the presence of classified records at Mar-a-Lago — 19 months after he became a private citizen — and FBI officials are investigating who removed the records from the White House to the Florida estate and who is responsible for retaining them in an unauthorized location.

    Another law punishable by up to three years in prison makes it a crime to willfully remove, conceal or mutilate government records. And a third law, carrying up to 20 years imprisonment, covers the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

    The Espionage Act statute regarding retention of national defense information has figured in multiple prosecutions. Past investigations have produced disparate results that make it hard to forecast the outcome in the Trump probe. But there have been convictions.

    When it comes to handling government secrets, there are indeed some differences that could possibly be considered: Presidents, for instance, don’t have to pass background checks to obtain classified information, they’re not granted security clearances to access intelligence and they’re not formally “read out” on their responsibilities to safeguard secrets when they leave leave office.

    It notes that a president has the absolute authority to declassify documents, though it doesn’t actually say — as Trump has asserted — that he did so with the records seized from his home. It also says the “primary” law criminalizing the mishandling of classified information does not apply to the president and instead covers subordinate employees and officers.

    The statute the letter cites, though, is not among the three that the search warrant lists as being part of the investigation. And the Espionage Act law at issue concerns “national defense” information rather than “classified,” suggesting it may be irrelevant whether the records were declassified or not.

    It’s possible to “imagine a good faith mistake” or a president taking something sensitive without realizing it or because they needed it for a particular reason, said Chris Edelson, a presidential powers scholar and American University government professor.

    This content was originally published here.

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