WASHINGTON — An audio recording from a meeting in which former President Donald Trump discusses a “highly confidential” document with an interviewer appears to undermine his later claim that he didn’t have such documents, only magazine and newspaper clippings.
The recording, from a July 2021 interview Trump gave at his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort for people working on the memoir of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, is a critical piece of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump over the mishandling of classified information.
The special counsel’s indictment alleges that those in attendance at the meeting with Trump — including a writer, a publisher and two of Trump’s staff members — were shown classified information about a Pentagon plan of attack on an unspecified foreign country.
“These are the papers,” Trump says in a moment that seems to indicate he’s holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran. “This was done by the military, given to me.”
Trump’s reference to something he says is “highly confidential” and his apparent showing of documents to other people at the 2021 meeting could undercut his claim in a recent Fox News interview that he didn’t have any documents with him.
“There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers, and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” Trump said on 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. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.”
Trump pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 37 counts related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents kept at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, as part of a 38-count indictment that also charged his aide and former valet Walt Nauta. Nauta is set to be arraigned Tuesday before a federal judge in Miami.
A Trump campaign spokesman said the audio recording, which first aired Monday on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” “provides context proving, once again, that President Trump did nothing wrong at all.” And Trump, on his social media platform late Monday, claimed the recording ”is actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe.”