Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate was searched by the FBI on Monday. Julian Zelizer: The search was largely or entirely a function of the investigation into Trump’s retention of documents after leaving the White House. If Trump is found to have violated federal law in removing and retaining classified documents without authorization, he could be convicted of a felony punishable by five years in prison. Zelizer says a felony carrying that punishment because of a law signed by President Donald Trump would be punishable by a five-year prison sentence if it was found to be a felony. Trump's allies have already been offering a rationalization: He had declassified everything he took to Mar-A-Lago, Zelizer writes.
The president has full authority to declassify things and can, in essence, do so on the fly. Fact-checkers considered this idea, and determined it to be largely accurate. But it is conceivable that Trump's defense against his potential possession of classified material at Mar-a-Lago may be that he declassified it while still president, even if no formal record of the declassification was made. This obviously is very convenient — but also not completely ridiculous, since that material would now presumably be publicly available in some form. In 2017, on the day after he fired Comey, Trump welcomed senior Russian officials into the Oval Office for a meeting, he revealed to them classified information.