CNN obtains the tape of Trump’s 2021 conversation about classified documents
(CNN) — CNN has exclusively obtained the audio recording of the 2021 meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump discusses holding secret documents he did not declassify.
The recording, which first aired on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” includes new details from the conversation that is a critical piece of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump over the mishandling of classified information, including a moment when Trump seems to indicate he was holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran.
“These are the papers,” Trump says in the audio recording, while he’s discussing the Pentagon attack plans, a quote that was not included in the indictment.
In the two-minute audio recording, Trump and his aides also joke about Hillary Clinton’s emails after the former president says that the document was “secret information.”
“Hillary would print that out all the time, you know. Her private emails,” Trump’s staffer said.
“No, she’d send it to Anthony Weiner,” Trump responded, referring to the former Democratic congressman, prompting laughter in the room.
Trump’s statements on the audio recording, saying “these are the papers” and referring to something he calls “highly confidential” and seems to be showing others in the room, could undercut the former president’s claims in an interview last week with Fox News’ Bret Baier that he did not have any documents with him.
“There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” Trump said on Fox. “And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document. I didn’t have a document, per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles.”
Trump pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 37 counts related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents kept at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The audio recording comes from a July 2021 interview Trump gave at his Bedminster resort for people working on the memoir of Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff. The special counsel’s indictment alleges that those in attendance – a writer, publisher and two of Trump’s staff members – were shown classified information about the plan of attack on Iran.
The episode is one of two referenced in the indictment where prosecutors allege that Trump showed classified information to others who did not have security clearances.
CNN has previously reported that Trump at the time was furious over a New Yorker article about Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley that said Milley argued against striking Iran and was concerned Trump would set in motion a full-scale conflict.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement that “the audio tape provides context proving, once again, that President Trump did nothing wrong at all.”
‘I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up’
The recording obtained by CNN begins with Trump claiming “these are bad sick people,” while his staffer claims there had been a “coup” against Trump.
“Like when Milley is talking about, ‘Oh you’re going to try to do a coup.’ No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in,” the staffer says, according to the audio.
The next part of the conversation is mostly included in the indictment, though the audio makes clear there are papers shuffling as Trump tells those in attendance he has an example to show.
“He said that I wanted to attack Iran, Isn’t it amazing?” Trump says as the sound of papers shuffling can be heard. “I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. They presented me this – this is off the record but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.”
The indictment includes ellipses where the recording obtained by CNN shows where Trump and his aide begin talking about Clinton’s emails and Weiner, whose laptop caused the FBI to briefly re-open its investigation into her handling of classified information in the days before the 2016 election she lost to Trump.
Trump then returns to the Iran document, according to the audio recording and indictment transcript.
“I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said, ‘He wanted to attack Iran, and what…,’ ” Trump says.
“These are the papers,” Trump continues, according to the audio file.
“This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump continues, before noting that the document remained classified.
“See as president I could have declassified it,” Trump says. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
“Now we have a problem,” his staffer responds.
“Isn’t that interesting,” Trump says.
While that’s the last line included in the indictment, the audio recording obtained by CNN includes several additional lines from the conversation:
Trump: “It’s so cool. I mean, it’s so, look, her and I, and you probably almost didn’t believe me, but now you believe me.”
Writer: “No, I believed you.”
Trump: “It’s incredible, right?”
Writer: “No, they never met a war they didn’t want.”
Trump: “Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in please.”