Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have informed the Justice Department that they have been unable to locate a classified document related to Iran sought by investigators that was discussed during a recorded meeting, two people with knowledge of the case confirmed to CBS News.
The classified document in question came to the Justice Department’s attention through an audio file it obtained in the course of special counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the former president’s retention of sensitive records and alleged obstruction of the investigation. The audio, recorded by a Trump aide, includes remarks Trump made to two ghostwriters for his last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, related to Iran and how to confront it militarily, the people said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
One person said it was not clear if the document exists, or if Trump was misidentifying something to the group assembled during the recording. They added that the tape is in the possession of prosecutors.
CNN first reported the existence of the recording and that Trump’s lawyers told the Justice Department that they were unable to find the classified document referenced.
The recording — from a July 2021 meeting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey — is a crucial piece of evidence that prosecutors obtained in recent months and presented in grand jury proceedings examining the former president’s actions related to sensitive records, CBS News has previously reported.
CBS News has reported that, according to two people familiar with the matter, Trump can be heard on the recording conceding that there were national security restrictions on the classified memo because it detailed a potential attack on Iran. It is not clear from the recording whether Trump was in possession of the document at the time or was just describing its contents to at least three people who were present during the meeting, the people said. CBS News has not listened to the audio.
Trump aide Margo Martin, who recorded the meeting, and the other individuals who were working on an autobiography of Meadows were present at the meeting, CBS News previously reported. The sources said that on the audio, the former president mentioned the classified document when he was talking about Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who according to The New Yorker, had fought in the last days of the Trump administration to keep the president from attacking Iran.
Witnesses brought before the grand jury, per the people with knowledge, have been asked about this exchange and any other mentions by Trump of any classified documents or maps or talk of Milley.
The subpoena for the document was issued in or around March, a person with knowledge said. The subpoena was first reported by CNN.
Representatives for Trump were unavailable for comment.
Robert Costa, Catherine Herridge and Robert Legare contributed reporting.
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