The recording of Donald Trump supposedly showing guests a top-security military document at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, offers “even more damning” evidence against the former president than its transcript in Trump’s federal indictment, according to a former prosecutor. Trump, however, maintains his innocence.
The audio tape, which was exclusively obtained by CNN and was first aired to the public on “Anderson Cooper 360” Monday evening, has been considered a key piece of the Justice Department’s case against Trump, who is facing federal charges for allegedly mishandling classified documents that he took with him upon leaving the White House. News about the recording’s existence was first reported by CNN roughly a week before the DOJ’s 37-count indictment was unsealed, and part of the tape was transcribed in the charging document.
During the conversation, Trump, while speaking to at least one staffer and a writer who was working on a memoir of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, speaks about a classified Pentagon document that shows a plan to attack Iran. The former president also says that the document was given to him by U.S. General Mark Milley, and speaks as if he is holding the document in front of his guests for them to view for themselves. The recording was reportedly taken in July 2021 with Trump’s knowledge.
Much of the conversation in the tape published by CNN is the same as what was included in the DOJ’s indictment. However, the full two-minute recording offers new insight into who originally gave Trump the document and his knowledge of the document being declassified.
The recording also included pieces of Trump briefly grumbling about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in 2016, and former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, whose laptop was the center of the FBI‘s investigation into how Clinton handled classified information while serving at the State Department.
According to former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Renato Mariotti, the recording is even stronger evidence against Trump than what was previously included in the DOJ’s indictment.
“This recording is even more damning than it reads in the indictment,” Mariotti tweeted Monday, responding to a post from CNN about the audio tape. “Trump used a document he admits was classified as a prop to brag and make himself feel important. Ironically, moments earlier, Trump and his guest mocked Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified documents.”
Andrew Weissmann, a fellow former federal prosecutor, also noted on Twitter that the audio clip offers two “key points” in the case against Trump: “1. evidence of dissemination of classified info by Trump,” and “2. He knows it’s classified at the time he disseminates it.”
During the conversation, Trump repeatedly tells his guests to “look” at the document in question, and tells the writer upon supposedly showing them the paper, “This is off the record.” The former president also says, as transcribed in the indictment as well, “See, as president, I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
The recording directly counters Trump’s repeated argument that the documents retrieved from his Mar-a-Lago estate last August were declassified upon his leaving the White House. The former president has pleaded not guilty to all 37 federal charges related to the DOJ’s investigation.
In a statement to Newsweek Monday night, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign said via email that the tape proves “once again” that the former president is innocent and called it “bait” for “Trump-haters.”
“The audio tape provides context proving, once again, that President Trump did nothing wrong at all,” the campaign spokesperson said. “The President is speaking rhetorically and also quite humorously about a very perverted individual, Anthony Weiner, who was deep inside the corrupt Clinton campaign. The media and the Trump-haters once again were all too willing to take the bait, falling for another Democrat-DOJ hoax, hook, line, and sinker.”
Trump’s campaign also shared a statement on behalf of the former president, which read, “As we’ve been saying from the moment President Trump rode down the golden escalator, the President did nothing wrong.”
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