UPDATE: As a result of ACLUM's victory at summary judgement, the defendant agencies disclosed that they could not locate any standing declassification order, which former President Trump alleged that he issued after the FBI's search of Mar A Lago in August 2022.

In September 2022, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a public records lawsuit to gather information about whether former President Donald Trump lied when he recently asserted the existence of a declassification “standing order” for materials he removed from the Oval Office.  

The new lawsuit comes in the wake of an FBI raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the potential mishandling of classified information and obstruction of justice. After news of the raid broke, Trump released a statement claiming that he “had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them.” To date, neither Trump nor the government have produced evidence of such an order, and several of Trump’s own former cabinet members have publicly derided the notion of its existence.

The lawsuit names federal agencies that have not yet provided final responses to an ACLU request under the Freedom of Information Act. Meanwhile, that request has already prompted responses from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency—both of which claim that no standing order matching Trump’s description could be found.

On May 11, 2023, the Court rejected the government’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the government to ‘confirm or deny the existence of records’ responsive to ACLUM’s FOIA request by May 25, 2023. 


Matthew Segal, Daniel McFadden (ACLU of Massachusetts); Christopher Hart, Natalie Panariello (Foley Hoag LLP)