An audio recording of former President Donald J. Trump in 2021 discussing what he called a “highly confidential” document on Iran that he acknowledged he could not declassify because he was out of office appears to contradict his recent assertion that the material he was referring to were simply news clippings.
Federal prosecutors subpoenaed portions of a transcript of Mr. Trump’s two-minute recording in the indictment of Mr. Trump on charges that he had jeopardized national security secrets by mishandling classified documents after leaving office and then obstruct government efforts. to get them back.
The recording captured his conversation in July 2021 with an editor and writer working on a memoir for Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In it, Trump discussed what he described as a “secret” plan regarding Iran drawn up by Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Department of Defense. Trump cited the document to refute a version that General Milley feared he would have to prevent him from fabricating a crisis with Iran in the aftermath of Trump losing his re-election bid in late 2020.
The audio, which will likely appear as evidence at Trump’s trial in the documents case, was played for the first time in public on Monday. by Unlisted News and was also obtained by The New York Times.
Last week, in an interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, Trump insisted he would not present classified material at the meeting, which was taped at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump said he would not be referring to any “secret” or “highly confidential” document, but was referring to “newspaper news, magazine stories and articles.”
But the audio recording of the entire meeting suggests that Trump was referring not to secondhand accounts, but to a specific sheet or papers in front of him.
Joining Trump at the Bedminster meeting were those working on an autobiography of Meadows, as well as at least two of Trump’s own aides. Trump, in his own recounting, appears to be brandishing or pointing to what he described to his visitors as a document, described in the indictment as a “plan of attack,” ostensibly to refute a history published a week earlier in The New Yorker that described General Milley’s concern that Trump might launch an attack on Iranian interests that he could use to help create a rationale for staying in office.
“Isn’t that amazing?” Trump says as he rummages through what he calls “a big pile of papers,” which can be heard on the recording.
“This just came up,” Trump says, adding: “It was him. This was the Department of Defense and him.”
“Wow,” a woman in the room can be heard saying, followed by a rustle of papers.
“Let’s see here,” says Trump, adding: “Look.” There is a brief pause, during which he appears to show the people in the room something, and they begin to laugh.
“This totally wins my case, you know,” he says, adding that the documents were “highly confidential, secret. This is secret information.”
“Isn’t that amazing?” Trump later says, adding: “This was done by the military and they gave it to me.”
Then it seems to lean on a suggestion for book writers. “I think we probably can, right?” says Mr. Trump. A woman replies: “I don’t know, we’ll have to see, you know, we’ll have to try to figure out a…”
“Declassify it,” Trump says. “Look, as president I could have declassified it, but now I can’t.”
“Now we have a problem,” the woman says, laughing.
“It’s great,” Trump says, eventually asking someone to bring a Coke to drink.
In a statement, Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, avoided commenting on much of the content on the recording related to the candidate’s discussion of sensitive material, instead focusing on a joke Trump made during the meeting about the former representative Anthony D. Weiner’s role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“The audiotape provides context that proves, once again, that President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong,” Cheung said, adding that Trump was “speaking rhetorically and also quite humorously about “Weiner, and accusing” the media”. and Trump haters” from taking “the bait.”
Some of Trump’s lawyers have been aware of the recording since March, when an aide who attended the meeting, Margo Martin, was asked about it during a grand jury appearance, according to a person familiar with the records. facts. Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith requested his copy of the tape after that appearance.
The full clip undermines the arguments of some of Trump’s allies that he was merely bluffing and exaggerating or misrepresenting the material he described in the recording.
The indictment charges Trump with unlawfully withholding 31 individual national security documents and conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to obstruct repeated government efforts to recover the records.
Mr. Nauta is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Federal District Court in Miami on Tuesday. As part of the conditions for Trump’s release from his own arraignment, he was ordered not to discuss the case with Nauta or a list of 84 witnesses who participated in the special counsel’s investigation.