Former President Donald Trump may have just destroyed his own defense, all because he couldn’t stop bragging.
Trump is now the first former president to be federally indicted, over his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He has repeatedly insisted that all the material he brought to Florida was already declassified, and anyway, being president enabled him to declassify documents at will, including “just by thinking about it.”
But he knew better. In an audio recording of a July 2021 meeting, Trump admits that he had classified material and could not declassify it because he no longer holds office, CNN reported Friday.
Federal prosecutors obtained the recording, during which Trump says he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran. He met with two people working on an autobiography of his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, neither of whom had security clearance.
In the recording, Trump claims that he has a “big pile of papers” that undermine previous reports that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had convinced Trump not to attack Iran near the end of his presidency. Trump refers to one document as if he has it in front of him, and at one point there is the sound of paper rustling, as if he was showing the document off.
CNN was able to acquire a portion of the recording transcript, which shows Trump saying, “This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is, like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information.”
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” he admits.
The meeting took place six months before Trump’s legal team sent 15 boxes of records and classified documents back to the National Archives, and more than a year before the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, seizing more than 100 documents. Federal prosecutors have been unable to locate this particular Iran document.
Trump’s biggest defense is that he could declassify whatever material he wanted. His allies had previously argued that he had a “standing declassification order” that would immediately declassify any document removed from the Oval Office. Trump himself claimed he could declassify things “just by thinking about it.” But he knew it was all bunk—and he said so.
Twice impeached, now twice indicted, found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, sued for defamation twice more, and under investigation for trying to overturn the 2020 election.… It’s not looking pretty.