Donald Trump: key recording in ex-president's alleged mishandling of classified documents case revealed

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Trump has previously claimed all he had declassified all of the documents found at his Florida estate while still in office

A critical piece of evidence in Donald Trump's latest indictment has been made public for the first time, where the former president can be heard discussing a “highly confidential” document with interviewers.

Last year, Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida residence, was searched by FBI agents. At least 15 boxes containing an estimated 11,000 documents were seized, including around 100 marked as classified - a few even labelled top secret. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over the documents upon leaving office, and asked the Justice Department to investigate.

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An independent lawyer reviewed the seized material, and witnesses were questioned before a grand jury. Trump was then indicted earlier this month on 37 counts related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents kept. He appeared before a judge in Miami, and pleaded not guilty to all of them.

The recording in question is from a July 2021 interview Trump gave at his New Jersey resort for people working on the memoir of his former chief of staff, appears to show Trump acknowledging holding on to a top secret document about a potential plan to attack Iran. It is a critical piece of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump. over the mishandling of classified information.

CNN publicly broadcasted the recording for the first time on Monday (27 June), since it was obtained by federal prosecutors at the start of the month. At one point in the recording, he said: “these are the papers,” in a moment that seems to indicate he is holding a document. “This was done by the military, given to me.”

CNN reports Donald Trump was captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)CNN reports Donald Trump was captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
CNN reports Donald Trump was captured on tape talking about classified document he kept after leaving the White House (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Trump referenced something he said was “highly confidential, secret information”, and the sound of rustling papers can be heard. "See as president I could've declassified them," he can be heard saying. "Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret."

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The Associated Press reports that if he was, in fact, showing classified documents to other people at the 2021 meeting - without the necessary security clearance to see them - it would undercut his claims in a recent Fox News interview that he did not have any physical documents with him during the interview.

“There was no document," the former president said. “That was a massive amount of papers, and everything else talking about Iran and other things," he told 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," he continued. "There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles.”

Trump has previously claimed all he had declassified all of the documents found at his Florida estate while still in office. He has responded to the release of the recording on Truth Social, claiming the recording ”is actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe”.

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The recording indicated Trump had full understanding that he had retained classified material after leaving the White House, CNN said when its existence was first revealed in early June. In it, his comments suggested he wanted to share the information, but was aware he had limited ability to declassify records now that his time in office had ended.

A spokesperson for Trump told CBS in a statement at the time: "Leaks from radical partisans behind this political persecution are designed to inflame tensions and continue the media's harassment of President Trump and his supporters. It's just more proof that when it comes to President Trump, there are absolutely no depths to which they will not sink as they pursue their witch hunts."

"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," they continued.

Trump is facing a number of other high-profile legal challenges. In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree in a Manhattan courthouse, after an historic arraignment.

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The appearance marked the first time a former US President has faced criminal charges, which stem from hush money payments made ahead of his successful 2016 Presidential campaign to porn star Stormy Daniels. He will next appear for this case on 4 December.

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