“I just want you to know I’ve declassified everything in the world. I’m President, I can do — c’mon,” Biden told reporters as he was departing the White House.
It amounted to Biden’s most expansive comments to date about handling of classified documents following the FBI search of his predecessor’s home in Florida.
His comments, coming not long after a redacted affidavit shed new light on the material Trump brought with him to his Palm Beach members’ club, stopped short of making a judgment on Trump’s actions.
But they still reflected Biden’s most extensive remarks about an issue he and his team have taken pains to keep at a distance.
“I’m not going to comment because I don’t know the details. I don’t even want to know. I’ll let the Justice Department take that,” Biden said.
In the days following the FBI search of Trump’s compound, the former President and his allies have claimed Trump had a “standing order” to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence.
CNN has previously reported more than a dozen senior officials from the Trump administration never heard any such order issued during their time working for Trump, saying they believe the claim to be patently false.
Biden and his top aides have worked diligently to avoid commenting on the ongoing criminal probe into Trump’s handling of classified material. They have said they only learn of developments from the news media.
Still, some Biden administration officials have privately said there is concern internally about what exactly Trump took with him, and whether it has the potential to damage US national security.
Asked Friday whether it was ever appropriate to take home classified material, Biden suggested there were scenarios when it was OK.
“It depends on the circumstance — for example, I have in my home a cabined-off space that is completely secure,” he said, describing the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility built to handle classified information.
“I’m taking home with me today today’s PDB (Presidential Daily Brief). It’s locked. I have a person with me, military with me. I read it. I lock it back up. I give it to the military,” he said.
When asked whether it was appropriate to handle classified material without a specialized area to do so, Biden said: “It depends on the documents and it depends on how secure everything is.”