Donald Trump Tape Reveals He Uttered 10 Words That Might Have Doomed Him
Donald Trump was reportedly recorded on tape saying that he could have declassified national security documents during his presidency but failed to do so—a sentence which experts say might be “damning evidence.”
On Friday, one day after Trump was indicted on seven charges related to his handling of classified documents, CNN reported that federal prosecutors are in possession of a tape in which the former president can be heard saying that he kept “secret” military information that he no longer had the power to declassify.
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” a transcript of the tape said. In the recording, made during a private meeting in 2021, Trump admits to being in possession of a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack in Iran, according to CNN.
If accurate, Trump’s reported remark made during the meeting in 2021 would be significant as it would show that the former president knew the documents he held at Mar-a-Lago were secret, contradicting what he has frequently claimed over the last few months—that all documents had been declassified.
The former president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last summer, and some classified documents were discovered there despite Trump’s repeated denials that he kept national security records after leaving office.
Federal prosecutors accused Trump on Thursday of retaining sensitive information after leaving the White House in January 2021 and obstructing efforts by the government to collect it. Federal charges have never been brought against a former president of the United States before. Trump disputes every claim.
Ryan Goodman, former special counsel at the Department of Defense, commented on the revelation contained in the tape saying: “This looks like highly damning evidence for the prosecution.”
Trump was indicted on seven counts relating to his possession of classified material, according to the Associated Press, according to two persons familiar with the case but were not authorized to publicly discuss it. The indictment’s specifics have not yet been made public. It is unknown if any of the seven counts had anything to do with the meeting in 2021 that was taped.
Many analysts think that, even if Trump’s claim that he had previously declassified papers fails, federal prosecutors could readily demonstrate that he handled classified information improperly after leaving office.
“It’s a cakewalk for prosecutors to prove Trump illegally retained documents, from a purely legal perspective and setting aside the politics and what a Florida jury’s bias might be,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Newsweek.
“Trump’s defense has been that he somehow declassified these documents, but if that defense falls apart then the same defense argument forces him to essentially admit he retained the documents,” he said.
“And the media reports of a tape recording in which Trump talked about having a classified document about Iran, that could also be used to prove that he personally knew what he had and how sensitive it was.”