A clip of former President Donald Trump claiming he would protect classified information has gone viral in light of a FBI raid at his Mar-a-Lago residence to recover sensitive government documents he allegedly was hiding.
According to Mediaite, Mr Trump made the claims during a presidential campaign stop in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2016.
“On political corruption, we are going to restore honour to our government. In my administration, I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law,” Mr Trump said at the time.
He made the comments at a time when the handling of sensitive government documents was a major issue for Republicans, who used the fact that Hillary Clinton stored government documents on a private email server as a political cudgel ahead of the 2016 election.
“Hillary Clinton put her emails on a secret server nobody knew about except for the man that was giving the Fifth, remember? What ever happened to him? Where is he? What happened to him? Where did he go? He pled the Fifth. Never heard – that’s the end of him…She put her emails on a secret server to cover up her pay-for- play scandal in the State Department,” he said during another 2016 campaign stop.
The Washington Post explained that Mr Trump ultimately increased the penalty for mishandling classified information, making such offences felonies. His addition to existing law added that those found in violation “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both”.
After the clip was posted to social media by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, users began noting the irony.
“It’s like a game of Clue except he tells us the crimes he plans to commit in advance,” legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa said on Twitter.
Others pointed out a particular line Mr Trump said in the clip — that “no one will be above the law”.
Mr Trump has since demanded — via his social media platform, Truth Social — that the documents be returned to Mar-a-Lago.
He claims he declassified all of the documents prior to their move to his residence, thus absolving him from any criminal actions regarding the files. However, neither he nor any of his current or former staff have been able to substantiate those claims, and at least one former official — former National Security Advisor John Bolton — claims no such order was ever given.
Even if Mr Trump did declassify everything found by the FBI, it does not absolve him of all responsibility. The Espionage Act makes it illegal to remove documents that could harm US national security without express authorisation, regardless of those documents’ classification.