ABC host George Stephanopoulos was in disbelief Sunday after Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) danced around questions of whether U.S. presidents can declassify documents with their minds.
Stephanopoulos asked the senator on ABC’s “This Week” if he agreed with former President Donald Trump’s recent assertion that he could declassify government materials “even by interested by it.”
Barrasso, who once refused to sentence Trump for defending protesters’ calls to “hang Mike Pence” throughout the U.S. Capitol riot, didn’t challenge the decidedly ridiculous statement.
“I’ve not heard that one before,” he said. “George, I let you know, when it comes to national security documents, now we have to all the time use extreme caution. I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee. We cope with classified information the entire time and are all the time very careful.”
He continued: “I don’t know anything concerning the rules for when a president declassifies documents and data.”
“I’ve not heard that one before … I do not know anything concerning the rules for when a president declassifies documents” — George Stephanopoulos can barely imagine it when John Barrasso refuses to say that Trump cannot declassify docs by merely interested by it pic.twitter.com/WticattUtc
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2022
“What I do know is what I’d prefer to see from the Senate standpoint is I’d prefer to see the Department of Justice come to us and show us in a classified setting what the knowledge is. What they’ve done,” he added.
Barrasso then questioned the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for classified documents. “We’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “So, I need to get a briefing in order that we will then be told to see what actually happened here.”
Trump’s legal team has used similar rhetoric in court, arguing the DOJ shouldn’t be taken at its word that classified documents were recovered throughout the search.
Stephanopoulos, stunned, responded: “That was a rhetorical query.”
“You already know that a president can’t declassify documents by interested by it. Why can’t you say so?”
Barrasso finally acknowledged: “I don’t think a president can declassify documents by saying so, by interested by.”