Former President Donald Trump was recorded in July 2021 admitting to having held on to a classified document about a potential military strike against Iran, according to a new report.
Federal prosecutors investigating whether the now-76-year-old wrongly stashed secret government information at his Mar-a-Lago home and office have obtained the audio, CNN reported, which goes against Trump’s claim that he declassified any material he possessed after leaving office.
The 45th president claimed at a CNN town hall earlier this month that he had “the right to” show documents to anyone he wished because “they were declassified after” his term ended.
But Trump acknowledged that he is limited from sharing details about military plans because he would have to declassify the sensitive material outside of the White House, according to sources who heard the recording and spoke with the outlet.
The recording could be a significant piece of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s ongoing probe of Trump’s handling of classified documents.
Smith’s prosecutors have questioned witnesses including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, CNN also reported.
Trump apparently made the admission during a meeting with a group that included his communications aide Margo Martin and were helping to write an autobiography of Mark Meadows, Trump’s last White House chief of staff.
The autobiography later recounted that during the meeting, Trump talked about “a four-page report typed up by Mark Milley himself.
It contained the general’s own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency.” (Sources who spoke with CNN disputed that Milley authored the report.)
Trump expressed frustration that Milley refused to take responsibility for the attack plan and added that if he could release the document, it would undermine Milley’s account he gave in a July 2021 article in The New Yorker.
In that telling, Milley pushed back against plans by Trump to strike Iran after the 2020 election, telling him at one point: “If you do this, you’re gonna have a f—king war.”
Smith may be “wrapping up” his investigation into Trump’s handling of dozens of boxes of classified material after the special counsel and his prosecutors have interviewed all Mar-a-Lago employees.
Trump’s attorneys have alleged Smith is conducting an “improper” investigation and have asked for a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland to identify “specific examples of prosecutorial misconduct and overreach.”
The FBI seized the sensitive documents in a raid on the Palm Beach estate Aug. 8, after multiple requests were made by the National Archives and Records Administration for Trump and his lawyers to hand over the material.
At least 15 boxes were turned over in January 2022, following other records requests.
President Biden is facing his own federal investigation over his handling of classified documents from his time as a senator and as Barack Obama’s vice president — some of which have also been seized by the FBI and some of which have been handed over voluntarily.
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