Legal Experts Assert Trump Lacked Authority to Declassify Nuclear Document He Illegally Possessed

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Source: Reuters) – Security experts have contradicted former President Donald Trump’s claim that he possessed the legal

Donald Trump
United States President Donald J. Trump joined by US Vice President Mike Pence, delivers brief remarks on the stock marked and the Dow reaching 30,000 for the first time in history, at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. Credit: Kevin Dietsch / Pool via CNP Newscom

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Source: Reuters) – Security experts have contradicted former President Donald Trump’s claim that he possessed the legal authority to declassify a U.S. nuclear weapons-related document, for which he is charged with illegal possession.

According to these experts, even during his presidency, Trump did not possess the necessary authority to declassify the document.

The classified document, identified as No. 19 in the indictment against Trump for endangering national security, falls under the purview of the Atomic Energy Act. Under this act, the document can only be declassified through a specific process involving the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

Unlike the other 31 documents listed in the indictment, which are subject to declassification through executive orders, the nuclear document’s declassification is governed by law, making it unique in its classification status. Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert affiliated with the Federation of Atomic Scientists, highlighted that Trump’s claim of having the power to declassify the document is irrelevant due to the legal framework surrounding nuclear weapons information.

The exceptional nature of the nuclear-related information further weakens Trump’s defense, which has largely relied on arguments related to declassification. Despite lacking evidence, Trump has asserted that he declassified the documents before removing them from the White House.

Legal experts emphasize that Trump’s claim of declassification authority does not hold ground when it comes to nuclear weapons information, as it is classified by law rather than executive order. This raises serious concerns about the legality of his possession and handling of classified materials.

As the case unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that the defense’s reliance on declassification as a justification for Trump’s actions is tenuous at best.

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