New audio obtained by CNN and the New York Times reveals former president Donald Trump discussing his possession of secret classified military documents, a revelation that contradicts his previous denial that he had any such documents.
The audio is from a July 2021 meeting in Bedminster, N.J. between Trump and those working on the memoir of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, including a writer, a publisher, and two of Trump’s staff members.
The Trump audio:
"See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret."
"Now we have a problem," a staffer responds. pic.twitter.com/ftNqOTnfZn
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 27, 2023
The recording includes new details that are expected to be critical pieces of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation in the classified documents case.
Trump was indicted by the Justice Department and charged with 31 counts of violating the Espionage Act earlier this month due to his “willful retention” of classified military and nuclear documents, as well as several other counts related to his alleged effort to obstruct the investigation.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the recording obtained by CNN, Trump can be heard indicating he was holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran.
“These are the papers,” Trump says.
In the two-minute audio recording, Trump can also be heard rustling papers as he speaks, making jokes about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and seemingly referring to the documents as “secret” and “highly confidential.”
“Isn’t that incredible?” Trump adds later in the recording. “This was done by the military and given to me.”
And finally: “As president I could have declassified it, but now I can’t.”
Trump has continued to deny any wrongdoing in the aftermath of the audio being published, but his statements on the recording contradict his claims made in an interview last week with Fox News’ Bret Baier, where he said that he did not have any documents with him during that meeting.
“There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” Trump said on Fox. “And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document. I didn’t have a document, per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.”
The content of the audio from the Bedminister meeting was first reported by CNN earlier this month, but the recording itself was not made public until Monday. Portions of the transcript were previously cited by federal prosecutors in Trump’s indictment earlier this month and many legal experts believe the audio itself is damning for Trump.
“The defendant in his own words—essentially narrating his crime,” New York University Law Prof. Ryan Goodman tweeted.
“This recording is even more damning than it reads in the indictment,” tweeted Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. “They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This audio could be worth a thousand days behind bars.”
The judge in Trump’s case, Judge Aileen Cannon (who Trump himself appointed while president), has set a tentative trial date of Aug. 14, but Smith has asked Cannon to delay the start of the trial until December.
Trump also faces significant legal troubles elsewhere across the country, including an investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Department of Justice inquiries into his role in the Jan. 6 attack, and another case in New York, where he was recently indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records over allegations that he made hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in those cases, as well.
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