Fox News anchor Bret Baier refuted suggestions promoted by Donald Trump and a fellow Fox News personality that former President Barack Obama had mishandled 33 million documents, including classified materials.
In the wake of the FBI raid in search of top secret and other classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home on Monday, the former president tried to draw parallels to Obama relocating federal records to Chicago after he left the White House. “What are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?” Trump asked Friday in a Truth Social post.
Trump made a similar claim on Thursday, writing: “What happened to the 30 million pages of documents taken from the White House to Chicago by Barack Hussein Obama? He refused to give them back! What is going on?”
Baier on Friday rejected the comparison during a Fox News segment, saying that while Obama had relocated the documents, that action had followed the legal process. In Trump’s case, the legal process does not appear to have been followed, although the former president and his attorneys contend he declassified the materials before leaving the White House.
“There is a process. President Obama, according to NARA and that statement and everything we know, followed the processes to get those documents to Chicago,” Baier said. “There was, you know, a lot of grumbling that they hadn’t been posted online as promised but how they were handled was done by that process.”
Baier continued, pointing out the “difference” is that the Obama documents “were handled properly.” He said that the question is “whether there’s a paper trail and a process for these documents, if that’s what the Trump lawyers and the former president are arguing.”
On Friday, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released a press statement rejecting Trump’s claims about Obama.
“The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assumed exclusive legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records when President Barack Obama left office in 2017, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA). NARA moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area where they are maintained exclusively by NARA. Additionally, NARA maintains the classified Obama Presidential records in a NARA facility in the Washington, DC, area. As required by the PRA, former President Obama has no control over where and how NARA stores the Presidential records of his Administration,” the statement said.
Trump and his lawyers have argued that the then-president declassified the materials to take to Mar-a-Lago. While presidents have wide latitude to declassify information, there are specific federal regulations outlining a process for doing so. Some legal experts have speculated that some of the documents recovered by the FBI might have been classified in a way that does not allow for a president to unilaterally declassify them.
Another Fox News host previously promoted the comparison between Obama and Trump prior to Baier’s refutation of the claim.
“They shipped 30 million pages of sensitive and possibly classified materials to Chicago, and, by the way, he has yet to return any of it to the National Archives. Not one page,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his Wednesday show. “So is his house about to get raided?”
NARA Looks for Records
News first broke in early February that Trump had improperly taken classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, with NARA confirming that it had been searching for 15 boxes of records. Trump did not deny the story at the time, saying that it was a mix-up as his staff hastily moved him out of the White House.
After the boxes were returned to the NARA, the collection led to additional concern that the former president still had additional classified materials. Federal investigators began interviewing Trump staffers to determine what had been taken from the White House. The interviews, and a broader investigation overseen by a U.S. attorney, resulted in a grand jury subpoena served against Trump in late May to produce specific documents.
After the documents were not turned over, the FBI and the Justice Department chose to take the unprecedented step of carrying out a search warrant against a former president. A federal judge, as is required process, approved the warrant, believing that the FBI had demonstrated probable cause. The warrant, which was unsealed Friday, said federal agents sought top secret (TS) and sensitive compartmentalized information (SCI), as well as other classified materials.
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s press office for comment.