Trump can’t ‘declassify documents by saying so,’ GOP Sen. Barrasso acknowledges when pressed
Written by Meghan MacPherson ABC News on September 25, 2022
(NEW YORK) — After Donald Trump suggested last week that as president “you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it,” Republican Wyoming Senator John Barrasso disagreed — but only after George Stephanopoulos pressed him on the issue twice on ABC’s “This Week.”
During an interview on Sunday, Barrasso was asked by Stephanopoulos about Trump’s handling of classified material, which is under federal investigation as Trump denies wrongdoing.
Trump claimed to Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week that while “different people see different things,” his view of this authority was absolute: “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified. Even by thinking about it.”
Stephanopoulos asked if Barrasso agreed. The senator said that he had not heard about such an assertion and pivoted to criticizing the Department of Justice’s court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago.
Barrasso said that he had “never seen anything like that before,” referring to the FBI “raid” Trump’s home, and that it had “become political.”
Stephanopoulos pushed back: “You know that a president can’t declassify documents by thinking about it. Why can’t you say so?”
The senator, who also said that he isn’t versed in the rules of presidential declassification and wants to get a briefing from the DOJ on the investigation, then agreed with Stephanopoulos. He said, “I don’t think a president can declassify documents by saying so, by thinking about it.”
That view lines up with what outside experts have told ABC News: The president must document his declassification process somewhere, whatever his process was.
Barrasso spent much of his “This Week” appearance pushing back on President Joe Biden’s foreign policy, including addressing the potential revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.
Stephanopoulos opened up the interview by having Barrasso respond to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser. Sullivan was also interviewed on “This Week” on Sunday and said nuclear negotiations — so Iran never has a weapon “they can threaten the world with” — could be effective at the same time the White House was putting public pressure on the country over its treatment of women and protesters.
“Did you find his argument convincing for staying in the Iran nuclear talks?” Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso.
“No deal with Iran, George, is a good deal … They continue to claim ‘death to America.’ We cannot allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” Barrasso said.
Stephanopoulos also sought clarity from Barrasso on the GOP and Ukraine.
Citing criticism of American’s continued aid to Ukraine by some Republicans, like Ohio Senate nominee J.D. Vance, Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso if Democrats were right to warn that the GOP may restrict future support if they retake Congress.
“No. There continues to be bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate for weapons to Ukraine,” Barrasso said.
He said he wanted the White House to be quicker in providing weapons to Ukraine and said “we ought to be producing more American energy to help our European allies” and American consumers who are dealing with the fallout of the conflict with Russia, a major energy provider.
Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso, just as he asked Sullivan: “Do you believe that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s hold on power is secure?”
“I’m not sure,” Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. “He is in a deep hole right now and he’s dug this hole. And I thought his statement to the country there really was desperate. It didn’t show really confidence or strength.”
“The Foreign Relations Committee is going to have a hearing this Wednesday on what additional things we can do in terms of sanctions [on Russia],” Barrasso said. “And also we have a secure briefing on Thursday in the Senate to take a look right at what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine.”
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