A Donald Trump smoking gun? Ex-president was caught on tape talking about taking classified documents.
What We Know: Prosecutors have a recording of former President Donald Trump talking about taking a classified document involving a possible attack on Iran
Donald Trump In Big Trouble?
Former President Donald Trump, it appears, is in considerably more legal jeopardy in connection with the classified documents case against him than from any of his other ongoing legal cases.
CNN reported Wednesday that federal prosecutors have obtained a recording of Trump, in July 2021, admitting that he “held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.” The admission, per the report, undercuts Trump’s claims that he had declassified all documents in question.
Per CNN, the recording shows that “Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House” and “Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records.”
That meeting, which took place at Trump’s Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, is among the things that Special Counsel Jack Smith has “focused on” as part of his investigation. The meeting was between Trump and people working on the autobiography of Mark Meadows, Trump’s last White House chief of staff, and had been mentioned in the book.
CNN has not obtained the actual recording but confirmed that Smith’s office has obtained it.
The document mentioned in Meadows’ book is a report, supposedly produced by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, concerning Milley’s plan for an attack on Iran. However, CNN cited sources stating that Milley did not in fact produce the document.
The New York Times reported more Wednesday about the new revelations, also stating that the document was authored not by Milley but rather by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., his predecessor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“On the recording, Mr. Trump began railing about his handpicked chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, who was described in media accounts at the time as having guarded against Mr. Trump’s striking Iran in the final days of the presidency, according to the people briefed on the matter,” the Times said.
Ty Cobb, a former Trump lawyer from the early days of the Robert Mueller investigation, said on CNN that the new evidence is very bad for the former president.
“One, it further enhances the obstruction case because it eviscerates the two defenses that Trump has put forward – the first being that merely by taking documents, he declassifies them or that he has the authority if he is playing with the ducks in the hot tub to declassify them in his own mind,” Cobb said on CNN’s “Outfront” show. “Those are out the door now because he’s admitted that he understood there were restraints on what he could do with documents.”
Recent reports have stated that Smith, the special counsel, is nearing a decision in the documents case, and also that Trump’s attorneys recently sought a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Unlike President Biden, his son Hunter, and the Biden family, President Trump is being treated unfairly,” Trump’s attorneys said in the letter, which Trump posted to Truth Social. “No president of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion.”
Other recent reports, mostly from The Guardian, have stated that Smith has gathered damning evidence from Trump attorney Evan Corcoran, and also that Smith’s office had subpoenaed Trump’s overseas business records.
Trump’s campaign reacted negatively to the news about the Bedminster document.
“The DOJ’s continued interference in the presidential election is shameful and this meritless investigation should cease wasting the American taxpayer’s money on Democrat political objectives,” a Trump campaign spokesman told CNN.
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Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.