We haven’t heard the tape or seen the entire transcript, but Trump’s claims seem contrary to the partial transcript where he clearly seems to be talking about a specific document “done by the military.”
In my numerous interviews on the subject of the Florida indictment of Donald Trump, I’ve repeatedly highlighted the part of the indictment alleging that Donald Trump, in a tape recorded interview, stated that he had a document that he could have declassified but didn’t, that was highly confidential, and that in some manner he showed it to the interviewers, at least from a distance. From the Indictment (emphasis added):
6. On two occasions in 2021, TRUMP showed classified documents to others, as follows:
a. In July 2021, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey (“The Bedminster Club”), during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, none of whom possessed a security clearance, TRUMP showed and described a “plan of attack” that TRUMP said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official. TRUMP told the individuals that the plan was “highly confidential” and “secret.” TRUMP also said, “as president I could have declassified it,” and, “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
b. In August or September 2021, at The Bedminster Club, TRUMP showed a representative of his political action committee who did not possess a security clearance a classified map related to a military operation and told the representative that he should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close.
* * *
33. On July 21, 2021, when he was no longer president, TRUMP gave an interview in his office at The Bedminster Club to a writer and a publisher in connection with a then-forthcoming book. Two members of TRUMP’s staff also attended the interview, which was recorded with TRUMP’s knowledge and consent. Before the interview, the media had published reports that, at the end of TRUMP’s term as president, a senior military official (the “Senior Military Official”) purportedly feared that TRUMP might order an attack on Country A and that the Senior Military Official advised TRUMP against doing so.
34. Upon greeting the writer, publisher, and his two staff members, TRUMP stated, “Look what I found, this was [ the Senior Military Official’s] plan of attack, read it and just show … it’s interesting.” Later in the interview, TRUMP engaged in the following exchange:
TRUMP: Well, with [the Senior Military Official]-uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack [Country A]. Isn’t it amazing? 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.
TRUMP: We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff-pages long, look.
TRUMP: Wait a minute, let’s see here.
STAFFER: [Laughter] Yeah.
TRUMP: I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know.
TRUMP: Except it is like, highly confidential.
STAFFER: Yeah. [Laughter]
TRUMP: Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack, and-
TRUMP: By the way. Isn’t that incredible?
TRUMP: I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said, “he wanted to attack [Country A], and what … ”
STAFFER: You did.
TRUMP: This was done by the military and given to me. Uh, I think we can probably, right?
STAFFER: I don’t know, we’ll, we’ll have to see. Yeah, we’ll have to try to-
TRUMP: Declassify it.
STAFFER: -figure out a-yeah.
TRUMP: See as president I could have declassified it.
STAFFER: Yeah. [Laughter]
TRUMP: Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.
STAFFER: Yeah. [Laughter] Now we have a problem.
TRUMP: Isn’t that interesting?
At the time of this exchange, the writer, the publisher, and TRUMP’s two staff members did not have security clearances or any need-to-know any classified information about a plan of attack on Country A.
35. In August or September 2021, when he was no longer president, TRUMP met in his office at The Bedminster Club with a representative of his political action committee (the “PAC Representative”). During the meeting, TRUMP commented that an ongoing military operation in Country B was not going well. TRUMP showed the PAC Representative a classified map of Country B and told the PAC Representative that he should not be showing the map to the PAC Representative and to not get too close. The PAC Representative did not have a security clearance or any need-to-know classified information about the military operation.
I certainly was not alone in pointing to that allegation as potentially the most damaging legally. Speculation is that the document in question was the U.S. battle plan for invading Iran. But I also pointed out that as with all the allegations, we didn’t know the entire picture of what happened:
…. But it’s also true that there are allegations which need to be proven, just cause they’re in an indictment doesn’t make them true, that there are recordings or there’s a recording of him supposedly flashing battle plans in front of some people who are interviewing him. That’s very troubling. You can’t ignore that. If it’s true.
…. And that’s why I say we don’t know, you know, what the full story is here and it’s gotta be proven. If that is a document that was already in the public domain, then I think that should have been disclosed in the indictment. That puts a very different light on it. And that’s why I’m saying the indictment is just the allegations by the prosecutors. It’s not necessarily all the evidence, but if it’s true that that was still a classified document, if that’s true, and if he showed it to people while acknowledging that it had never been declassified, that puts him at significant risk.
But on the supposed Iran document, we now know Trump’s defense: There was no such document, he was just posturing regarding reporting about Iran. During his interview with Brett Baier, Trump said (via Mediaite):
Baier noted that the indictment alleges that at “Bedminster on July 21st, 2021 after you’re no longer president, you were recorded saying that you had a document detailing a planned attack on another country that was prepared by the U.S. military for you when you were president. The Iran attack plan.”
“You remember that?” Baier asked.
“It wasn’t a document. I had lots of paper. I had copies of newspaper articles. I had copies of magazines,” Trump said, denying the contents of the tape as Baier read him the exact quote from the indictment.
“This is specifically a quote, you’re quoted on the recording saying the document was ‘secret,’ adding that you could have declassified it while you were president, but, quote, ‘Now I can’t you know, this is still secret, highly confidential.’ And the indictment cites the recording and the testimony from people in the room saying you showed it to people there that day,” Baier clarified.
“It was just the opposite,” Trump shot back.
“You say on tape you can’t declassify. So why have it?” Baier pushed.
“When I said that, I couldn’t declassify it now because I wasn’t president, I never made any bones about that. When I’m not president, I can’t declassify,” Trump replied.
Bret shot back noting again what Trump said on the tape, to which Trump replied, “No, no.”
“Bret, there was no document,” Trump repeated, adding:
That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things. And it may have been held up or made up, 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.
“I’m just saying what the indictment says. According to the recording and the people in the room,” Baier clarified.
Trump then pivoted to attacking the prosecutors, calling them “very dishonest people, they’re thugs. They’re thugs.”
BAIER: "According to the indictment, […] you were recorded saying that had a document detailing a plan of attack on another county […] the Iran attack plan. Do you remember that?"
TRUMP: "Ready? It wasn't a document. I had lots of paper. I had copies of newspaper articles." pic.twitter.com/QJMzyxBrYq
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) June 19, 2023
Jonathan Turley found this the most legally significant part of the interview:
Digesting the extraordinary interview with Trump, the most significant legal element is the stating of his defense to the audiotape. Trump will argue that there was never a document with the Iranian attack plan and that he was referring to material referencing the plan…
…On the tape, Trump says “As president I could have declassified, but now I can’t…Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. This was done by the military and given to me.”…
…So he will argue that this was a reference to a document that he did not have and could not now declassify it. The DOJ will push back on the language and could call the two individuals in the meeting on their own impressions…
..They may also have a specific document in mind, but they have not indicated that they have proof of its removal. That could be part of the case to come. However, we now know Trump’s account of the audiotape.
We haven’t heard the tape or seen the entire transcript, but Trump’s claims seem contrary to the partial transcript (highlighted above) where he clearly seems to be talking about a specific document “done by the military.” We don’t know the testimony of the persons present as to what they did or didn’t see. The feds have the information, and presumably will call those people as witnesses.
The feds can play the tape at trial. But the only way Trump gets into evidence his side of the story as told in the interview is to testify, which it’s extremely unlikely he will do. He can’t show the Bret Baier interview, but the feds can if they think it helps them.
Whether this interview helps or hurts Trump legally remains to be seen, when we find out what else the feds have about the incident to prove what the document was.DONATE
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