Trump boasts about having non-declassified papers in bombshell recording: ‘I have a big pile’

Trump was indicted on federal charges for his retention of classified documents on Thursday

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 09 June 2023 22:02 BST
Related video: What the Trump indictment means

Donald Trump made the stunning admission that he held onto “secret” military information that he hadn’t declassified in a bombshell tape believed to be at the heart of his indictment on federal charges.

A transcript of the 2021 tape was revealed by CNN on Friday morning, hours after news emerged that Mr Trump had been indicted on federal charges relating to the storage of classified national defence documents dating from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

In the tape, first reported last week, the ex-president speaks about retaining information that he says “as president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t”.

He specifically referenced a classified Department of Defense document regarding an attack on Iran, according to the transcript.

The new indictment was unsealed on Friday afternoon, revealing that Mr Trump has in fact been charged over the incident captured on the tape.

The 49-page document lays out the two instances on which Mr Trump showed classified papers to unauthorised persons at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club.

The first, in July 2021, was during an interview with a writer and a publisher who were working on a book by his ex-chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Those are the voices allegedly heard on the tape.

According to the indictment, Mr Trump showed the writer, the book publisher, and two staff members who lacked security clearances a “plan of attack” put together by General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had recently been reported as criticising Mr Trump by the New Yorker.

The recording showed that Mr Trump was aware that the documents he had brought with him from the White House after leaving office on 20 January that year were still classified.

In public, Mr Trump has argued that all of the files he took to Florida had been declassified and he has claimed that the investigation is a witch hunt and an attempt to hinder his 2024 campaign to return to the White House.

It was reported last week that prosecutors had procured the audio recording - the transcript of which implies that Mr Trump is showing the document he’s speaking about during the conversation.

CNN reported that several sources have said that the sound from the recording includes the rustling of papers, indicating that Mr Trump may have been moving the document around. But it’s not clear if it was the document regarding Iran.

“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Mr Trump said. “This was done by the military and given to me.”

At the time, Mr Trump was complaining about Gen Milley. The meeting took place not long after a story published by The New Yorker outlined how Gen Milley told the Joint Chiefs during the last days of Mr Trump’s time in office to make sure that the then-president not give any illegal orders and that Gen Milley should be made aware if there were any concerns.

“Well, with Milley – uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” Mr Trump said, the transcript shows. “They presented me this – this is off the record, but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”

“All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Mr Trump added.

“Secret” and “confidential” are both degrees of classified information.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has led the federal probe into Mr Trump’s handling of classified information and his obstruction of the investigation. Mr Trump’s attorney said the 45th president was summoned by the Department of Justice to appear in court on Tuesday in Miami.

The indictment features 38 counts, including: willful retention of national defence information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations.

Mr Smith is also investigating Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Mr Smith was appointed in November to lead the Department of Justice’s documents and election probes by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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