Trump defends docs handling in unusually tough Fox News interview

20 Jun 2023 01:06pm
Former US president Donald Trump - Facebook
Former US president Donald Trump - Facebook

WASHINGTON, US - Former US president Donald Trump, facing dozens of charges of mishandling classified government secrets, defended himself Monday in an unusually tough interview on conservative-leaning Fox News, saying he had been too "busy" to sort through the documents.

Trump appeared last Tuesday before a judge in Miami to be formally presented with 37 charges brought by the federal government following an FBI search of his Florida mansion last August.

The Department of Justice accuses Trump - who is vying to win back the White House next year - of violating the Espionage Act and other laws when he removed classified documents upon leaving office and failed to give them up to the National Archives.

The 77-year-old told Fox News host Bret Baier, in an interview broadcast Monday evening, that as he quickly left the White House in January 2021, his personal belongings were mixed in with government documents.

"In my case, I took it out pretty much in a hurry, but people packed it up and we left. And I had clothing in there, I had all sorts of personal items in there - much much stuff." "I have every right to have those boxes," he claimed.

When Baier asked why he did not just hand over documents when asked by officials, Trump said: "Because I had boxes - I want to go through the boxes and get all my personal things out. I don't want to hand that over... yet." He added: "I was very busy as you've sort of seen." In its indictment, the Justice Department described evidence including an audio recording from a July 2021 meeting that Trump, who was no longer president, had with an author, a publisher and two of his staff - none of whom had a US security clearance - in which Trump showed them what he called a "secret" and "highly confidential" document.

"This is secret information... See as president I could have declassified it," Trump said according to the indictment. "Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret." When pressed by Baier about the exchange, Trump claimed the thing he had been showing the others "wasn't a document." "I had copies of newspaper articles. I had copies of magazines," he said.

"That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things. And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document." Baier also pushed Trump over the many Republicans who served under him and are now either challenging him for the White House or harshly criticizing him, including Bill Barr who as attorney general refused to wade into his claims of election fraud.

When Trump repeated those unfounded claims, Baier said bluntly: "You lost the 2020 election," and legal challenges even in front of judges he had appointed.

Fox News, which had largely backed Trump throughout his presidency, agreed in April to a $787.5 million settlement in a lawsuit launched by voting technology company Dominion which accused the news behemoth of promoting Trump's election fraud claims while knowing they were untrue. - AFP