DEBUNKED

No, this photo doesn’t prove Trump is going to declassify secret documents

Donald Trump celebrated his decision to roll back regulations on environmental protections, health care and other industries by posing next to this stack of papers meant to represent the regulations he was ditching.
Donald Trump celebrated his decision to roll back regulations on environmental protections, health care and other industries by posing next to this stack of papers meant to represent the regulations he was ditching. © Observers
Text by: Tristan Werkmeister
3 min

A Facebook post published on January 16 claimed that former US president Donald Trump was about to declassify a large number of documents, with the aim of “revealing them to the world”.  The post, which includes a photo of the president posing next to tall stacks of paper, was shared more than a thousand times the day before his successor Joe Biden took office. Turns out, however, this photo is old and has nothing to do with classified documents.

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The photo shows a smiling Trump posing next to several stacks of paper. One towering series of piles is labeled “Today” while the other, much shorter stack is labelled  "1960". The caption claims that Trump is getting ready to declassify all of the documents in the “Today” stacks. 

“Files that will be declassified and revealed to the world,” says the caption, claiming that Trump is planning to reveal state secrets before leaving the Oval Office. 

We ran this photo through a reverse image search on Google (take a look here to find out how), which pulled up photos of the same scene published by various media outlets. Turns out, the photo isn’t recent: it was taken at the White House on December 14, 2017 during a press event. 

The stacks of papers aren’t documents declassified by Trump. They are actually meant to represent regulations. On that day, Trump’s team set up this exhibit to demonstrate what they saw as the need to simplify – and some cases throw out – these laws. 

“We have decades of excess regulation to remove,” Trump stated during the event. 

In the Washington Post video below, the president says that he will make the “Today” pile even smaller than the “1960” pile by the end of his time in office. He then cuts a red ribbon strung across the two piles. 

The piles of paper are meant to represent the number of pages of regulations in 1960 and 2017, respectively. Trump said, at the event, that there were 20,000 pages of regulation in 1960 and 185,000 pages in 2017. However, The Washington Post was sceptical and determined that the stacks at the event were too high and must have contained many more papers than those figures.