Former US president Donald Trump can be heard discussing secret documents he had apparently held on to after leaving the White House and acknowledging they had not been declassified, in an audio recording aired by US media.
The two-minute clip, played by CNN late Monday and later obtained by ABC and CBS, comes from an interview Trump gave at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club in July 2021 for people working on a memoir by his former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Parts of the recording’s transcript were cited as evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s 49-page indictment of Trump on charges he had mishandled classified documents after leaving office.
The audio file includes a moment when Trump seems to indicate he is holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran.
“These are the papers,” Trump says in the recording, a quote that was not included in the indictment.
He also refers to something as “highly confidential” and “this is secret information” as he seems to be showing something to the others in the room.
“This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump continues, before noting that one would need to “declassify it” for it to be used in the book.
“You see, as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know,” he says.
“Now we have a problem,” one of other people responds.
“Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool,” Trump says, just before the recording ends with him calling for someone to bring in some Cokes.
Trump earlier this month denied 37 counts of wilfully mishandling US government secrets and conspiring to prevent their return, becoming the first US president to face federal criminal charges.
After the recording was released, Trump lashed out on his Truth Social website, calling Smith “deranged” and baselessly accusing the prosecutor of conspiring with the Justice Department and FBI to “illegally” leak and mischaracterize the tape.
He claimed the audio was “actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe.”
“This continuing Witch Hunt is another ELECTION INTERFERENCE Scam. They are cheaters and thugs!” he posted.
The government accuses 77-year-old Trump — who is vying to win back the White House next year — of willfully hoarding dozens of classified documents he took unlawfully to his beachfront mansion in Florida, refusing to return them and conspiring to obstruct investigators seeking their recovery.
Trump is also accused of sharing sensitive US secrets with people who had no security clearance.
His criminal trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on August 14, although Smith has already applied to have the date put back to December.