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Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his Mar-a-Lago estate April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla., hours after being arraigned in New York City. (AP) Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his Mar-a-Lago estate April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla., hours after being arraigned in New York City. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his Mar-a-Lago estate April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla., hours after being arraigned in New York City. (AP)

Matthew Crowley
By Matthew Crowley April 5, 2023
Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson April 5, 2023
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 5, 2023

Hours after appearing in a Manhattan courtroom devoid of television cameras, with limited photography and encircled by agitated protesters in the streets outside, Donald Trump returned home to Mar-a-Lago, his luxurious estate in Palm Beach, Florida. 

There, on a ballroom stage with bright lights and a bank of cameras, he faced a supportive crowd and delivered a familiar stream of grievances, many of them falsehoods. 

Trump largely avoided discussing specifics of the current case on which he appeared in court earlier that day, instead defending himself in other investigations, including the investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Here are a few fact-checks of statements that were false, misleading or lacked context.

"I have a Trump-hating judge …. whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris and now receives money from the Biden-Harris campaign."

Judge Juan M. Merchan is the Manhattan judge in the hush money case.

Merchan’s daughter is Loren Merchan. Politico reported in 2022 that Loren was the president and partner of Authentic, which lists multiple Democratic clients, including Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign and the 2020 Biden-Harris campaign. Biden has not officially announced he is seeking reelection, so there is no Biden-Harris campaign entity at the moment.

Merchan presided over the case in which a jury in December found the Trump Organization guilty of a criminal tax fraud scheme. The jury found two entities controlled by Trump guilty on 17 counts of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The Trump Organization in January was fined $1.6 million. The company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to tax fraud in August. He was later sentenced to five months in prison.

Trump has suggested that Merchan should recuse himself, noting the Trump Organization case. Stephen Gillers, a judicial ethics expert at NYU School of Law, said that having presided over the Trump Organization case is not a basis for recusal.

"This case has a different defendant, different facts, and a different governing law," Gillers said. "In fact, judges routinely retry the very same case if, for example, there’s a mistrial or a reversal. What a judge learns or comes to believe in trying a case is not a basis for recusal. It’s called being a judge. Nor are the political views of the judge’s children a basis to recuse."

Says Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is a "George Soros-backed prosecutor."

That’s an oversimplification. Soros and Bragg have expressed similar views on criminal justice matters, and Soros donated $1 million to the Color of Change PAC in May 2021, the same month that the PAC endorsed Bragg. 

However, the donation to the PAC wasn’t earmarked for Bragg; Color of Change was supporting other progressive district attorney candidates that year in different cities, and had done so in previous election cycles, too. as well.

Soros and Bragg have never met in person or spoken by telephone, email or Zoom, a spokesperson for Soros told PolitiFact.

"Under the (Presidential Records) Act, I am supposed to negotiate with NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration."

This is inaccurate.

The Presidential Records Act requires that all documents be returned to the National Archives upon a president’s departure. It did not create a negotiating process by which ex-presidents get to pick and choose which documents to keep and which go to the government.

Former President Jimmy Carter signed the Presidential Records Act in 1978, applying to all records received or created after Jan. 20, 1981. The act built upon previous legislation Congress passed in 1974 to stop former President Richard Nixon from destroying tapes linked to the Watergate scandal.  

The Presidential Records Act transferred ownership of presidential records to the U.S. government. It also established a record-keeping structure under which presidents must maintain documents of their administrations.

"I was working with NARA very nicely until the raid on my home." 

"Very nicely" or not, federal archivists were not satisfied with Trump’s progress on complying with the Presidential Records Act in the first 19 months after he left office.

On May 6, 2021, the agency’s chief counsel emailed Trump’s representatives seeking "roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records" that had not been transferred, according to New York Times and Washington Post reporting and a heavily redacted affidavit

After months of requests, Trump lawyers informed the National Archives in December 2021 — about 11 months after he left the White House — that 12 boxes were found and ready for retrieval at Mar-a-Lago, according to a Justice Department affidavit.

The National Archives retrieved 15 boxes in January 2022. A Feb. 7 National Archives and Records Administration statement said "these records should have been transferred to NARA from the White House at the end of the Trump administration in January 2021." 

Over the next few months, archivists discovered classified documents in the boxes Trump had turned over. 

On June 3, Justice Department officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago, met briefly with Trump and retrieved additional documents marked classified, according to The New York Times. A Trump lawyer signed a declaration indicating that all the materials marked classified were turned over.

Sometime after the June 3 visit, investigators learned that there could still be more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. On June 22, Trump was served with another subpoena, for surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago.

On Aug. 8, the FBI came to Mar-a-Lago with a search warrant in hand and searched the complex, removing another 25 boxes of documents. 

"Biden was vice president. He had absolutely no right to declassify as vice president."

This is largely wrong. 

The official documents governing classification and declassification are from presidential executive orders. In 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13526, "Classified National Security Information," in which Section 1.3 authorizes the president and vice president to initiate classifying information. 

Section 3.1 of the order says information shall be declassified or downgraded by, among others, "the official who authorized the original classification, if that official is still serving in the same position and has original classification authority."

Therefore, because Biden had original classification authority as vice president, he also had authority to declassify information that he had classified in the first place. We don’t know who initiated the classifications on the documents found in Biden’s Delaware home and Washington, D.C., office.

There is some ambiguity about the effect of the order on the vice president’s ability to declassify documents that were initially classified by other agencies, but experts are divided about this unknown and note that it has never been tested. 

"Biden is obstructing by making it impossible to get the 1,850 boxes" of documents.

This is unsupported; these papers have not been off-limits to federal investigators, with Biden consenting to FBI searches.

Trump is referring to a donation of 1,850 boxes of Biden’s senatorial papers to the University of Delaware, which have been housed on the campus since June 2012, according to the university library. 

The documents span 1973 to 2009 and include committee reports, drafts of legislation and other files, according to a 2012 report in the university’s UDaily newspaper. In 2020, Biden said in an interview that the collection also contains speeches, policy positions and overseas interviews.

Although the National Archives handles records related to official Senate business, senators commonly donate other records to their alma maters. Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965.

The university’s website says that the records would be made publicly available "no sooner than the later date of Dec. 31, 2019, or two years after the donor retires from public life." Until then, it says, access is only available with Biden’s express consent. 

However, the FBI has conducted two searches of these papers, which CNN reported were carried out with the consent and cooperation of the president's legal team.

The searches of the university collection followed FBI searches of Biden's homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and the Penn Biden Center’s Washington, D.C., office.

"They seem to have forgotten about (President Joe BIden’s classified) documents entirely."

This is wrong.

The FBI began its review in November 2022, and Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed John Lausch, a U.S. attorney in Chicago, to conduct an initial investigation

On Jan. 12, Garland announced the appointment of U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the Biden documents, including whether any person or entity violated the law. 

The investigation continues. 

"As president, I have the right to declassify documents, and the process is automatic. If I take them with me, it’s automatic. Declassified."

Courts have ruled this interpretation to be dubious.

Trump’s assertion echoes something he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in September 2022, that he could essentially declassify material in his head without any documentation at all. But this runs counter to logic that at least three earlier court decisions have already rejected. (The cases are James Madison Project v. U.S. Department of Justice, New York Times and Matthew Rosenberg v. Central Intelligence Agency, and Leopold v. Department of Justice.)

Presidents do have an unusual degree of authority to declassify documents. However, "merely proclaiming a document or group of documents declassified and doing nothing more would not suffice," Bradley Moss, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who works on national security cases, previously told PolitiFact.

Follow-through is required, Moss said.

"He had to identify the specific documents he was declassifying, he needed to memorialize the order in writing for bureaucratic and historical purposes, and he needed to have staff physically modify the classification markings on the documents themselves," Moss said. "Until that was done, the documents, per the security classification procedures, still have to be handled, transmitted and stored as if they were classified."

The search of Mar-a-Lago was an "illegal and unconstitutional raid."

This is wrong. The law was followed in securing the search warrant used at Mar-a-Lago: The FBI warrant was signed by a U.S. magistrate judge. 

According to a receipt released by the Justice Department, the removed documents include "various classified/TS/SCI documents." TS/SCI stands for top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. There are also four sets of documents described as "Miscellaneous Top Secret" and three others listed as "Miscellaneous Secret."

RELATED: Trump’s indictment, explained: Falsifying business records, prosecutors’ challenges, and what’s next

RELATED: Donald Trump indictment: A roundup of PolitiFact’s fact-checks, stories and explainers

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