Several GOP senators raised fresh concerns Thursday about former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, dismissing his claim that he might just declassify secret files by “thinking about it.”
In interviews with CNN, the senators broke with Trump’s assertion that everything was handled appropriately, dissenting from many party members who evaded questions about it or vigorously defended the former president.
Asked about Trump’s assertion on Fox News that he could just declassify documents while thinking about it and that there is no process to follow to do so, GOP Sen. John Thune told CNN that there is a document declassification process.
“And I think that should be respected and followed. And I think that should apply to anyone who has access to or deals with classified information,” Thune said.
“I think the concern is about those being taken from the White House in the absence of a way to declassify them or the fact that classified documents have been removed – without some sort of proper safeguards,” the Republican continued. of South Dakota, adding, “I think that’s where the Justice Department is coming from.
Senator Thom Tillis, a two-term Republican from North Carolina who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN he believes there is a process that must be followed by a president to declassify records.
“I believe there’s a formal process that needs to be followed, that needs to be tracked and documented,” Tillis said. “And as long as they’ve been declassified, gone through the process, that’s fine. … If I understand the requirements of the executive branch correctly, there’s a process that one has to go through.
Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota who sits on the Armed Services Committee, called the handling of classified documents a “very serious” problem.
“I think anyone who takes the time to appropriately protect this information and has taken the time to see what’s in it would have serious concerns about how the material might be accessed if not stored properly. “, Rounds told CNN. “And so again, here, we take that very seriously. People can be hurt, people can be killed if it is not stored properly and if this information is disseminated. »
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump’s top ally, also dismissed the former president’s claims.
“The process is probably more complicated than that,” he said of Trump’s claim that he could declassify anything if he thinks about it.
The comments diverge from GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, who largely declined to comment on Mar-a-Lago’s research, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has defended Trump throughout the process.
On Thursday, other senators dodged questions about it.
“I think the president has the prerogative to declassify,” Indiana Sen. Mike Braun said when asked about Trump’s comments. “What is the appropriate methodology, I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out how.