Donald Trump made the stunning admission that he held onto “secret” military information that he hadn’t declassified.
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Mr Trump said during the meeting in 2021 after he left office, according to a transcript obtained by CNN.
In the meeting, Mr Trump spoke about a classified Defence Department document regarding a supposed attack on Iran. The recording was obtained by prosecutors, in which Mr Trump states that he didn’t declassify the document he’s speaking about.
On Thursday, Mr Trump was indicted on seven counts in the probe led by special counsel Jack Smith into the ex-president’s handling of classified documents.
The indictment hasn’t been made fully public, meaning it’s not clear if any of those charges relate to the recording from 2021.
But the recording does show that Mr Trump was aware that the documents he had brought with him from the White House after leaving office on 20 January that year were still classified.
In public, Mr Trump has argued that all of the files he took to Florida had been declassified and he has claimed that the investigation is a witch hunt and an attempt to hinder his 2024 campaign to return to the White House.
It was reported last week that prosecutors had procured the audio recording, which was made in 2021 at Mr Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey resort with two individuals working on the autobiography of Mr Trump’s final White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in addition to aides to the former president, such as Marco Martin, a communications staffer.
The transcript implies that Mr Trump is showing the document he’s speaking about during the conversation.
CNN reported that several sources have said that the sound from the recording includes the rustling of papers, indicating that Mr Trump may have been moving the document around. But it’s not clear if it was the document regarding Iran.
“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Mr Trump said. “This was done by the military and given to me.”
At the time, Mr Trump was complaining about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. The meeting took place not long after a story published by The New Yorker outlined how Gen Milley told the Joint Chiefs during the last days of Mr Trump’s time in office to make sure that the then-president not give any illegal orders and that Gen Milley should be made aware if there were any concerns.
“Well, with Milley – uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” Mr Trump said, the transcript shows. “They presented me this – this is off the record, but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”
“All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Mr Trump added.
“Secret” and “confidential” are both degrees of classified information.
Federal prosecutors have probed Mr Trump’s handling of classified information and his obstruction of the investigation. Mr Trump’s attorney said the 45th president was summoned by the Department of Justice to appear in court on Tuesday in Miami.
Mr Smith, the Special Counsel, is also investigating Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Mr Smith was appointed in November to lead the Department of Justice’s documents and election probes by Attorney General Merrick Garland.