Former Attorney General William Barr surmised that there was likely no legitimate reason for his onetime boss to have documents stashed in his Mar-a-Lago estate and cast doubt on claims the documents were declassified.
While casting aspersions on the declassification claims, Barr underscored that regardless of whether former President Donald Trump declassified them, the documents still belonged to the government, meaning he should not have had them after he left office.
“I can’t think of a legitimate reason why they could be taken out of the government … if they’re classified,” Barr told Fox News. “If, in fact, [Trump] sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said, ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse. … It’s almost worse than taking the documents.”
Barr also shrugged off Trump’s motion requesting a special master as a “red herring.” A judge is poised to make a decision soon on Trump’s request to appoint a special master, a third-party court appointee, to screen the documents for privileged material.
“What people are missing is that all the other documents taken, even if they claim to be executive privilege, either belong to the government because their government records even if they’re classified, even if they’re subject to executive privilege,” Barr explained. “Any other documents that were seized, like news clippings and other things that were in the boxes containing the classified information — those were seizable under the warrant because they show the conditions under which the classified information was being held.”
“People say this was unprecedented. Well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put it in a country club … And how long is the government going to try to get that back?” Barr continued. “The facts are starting to show that [the Department of Justice was] being jerked around.”
Trump has claimed the Aug. 8 search and seizure was an “unAmerican break-in” and denied wrongdoing, while his representatives have insisted he had a standing order to declassify the material brought to his lavish Palm Beach, Florida, resort. A trove of documents confiscated had material that ranged from “CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET information,” according to the DOJ.
Government officials stopped by Mar-a-Lago on at least two occasions in the buildup to the August raid. The first came when the National Archives seized 15 boxes and discovered material with classified markings. The second came in June when government officials collected additional material.
Barr famously had a falling out with Trump after his tumultuous two-year tenure atop the DOJ and resigned from his post in December 2020 over vexations with Trump’s disputed assertions that the 2020 election was “rigged.”
In the time since his departure, Barr has opened up about his acrimonious relationship with his old boss and pleaded with Republicans to nominate “whoever has the best chance of pushing Trump aside.”
Last month, the DOJ released the memo that advised Barr not to indict Trump with obstruction of justice following the Mueller investigation — a move that stoked ire from the Left.