Multiple news outlets obtained and published audio late Monday of Donald Trump discussing a document that he took from the White House after losing the 2020 election and—according to the former president’s own words—didn’t declassify.
Federal prosecutors cited the two-minute recording in their recently unsealed indictment that charges Trump with willfully retaining national defense secrets and a conspiracy to obstruct justice. If found guilty, Trump could face years in prison.
In the audio tape, recorded during a July 2021 meeting with a publisher and writer at the former president’s New Jersey golf club, Trump is heard discussing a secret Pentagon document containing plans to attack Iran.
“These are the papers,” Trump says, proceeding to reference documents that he characterizes as “highly confidential” and “secret.”
The former president goes on to say that he “could have declassified” the Pentagon document while he was still in office.
“Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” says Trump, who is running for president again in 2024.
“Now we have a problem,” one of the other people at the July 2021 meeting responds.
“It’s so cool,” Trump says.
CNN aired the recording Monday night:
The newly released audio undermines the former president’s assertion that his comments on the tape—a transcript of which was previously reported by CNN—only reference “newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.”
“There was nothing to declassify,” Trump, the first ex-president to face federal criminal charges, said in an appearance on Fox News last week.
In a Truth Social post late Monday, Trump claimed that Special Counsel Jack Smith and the U.S. Justice Department “illegally leaked and ‘spun’ a tape and transcript of me which is actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe.”
“This continuing Witch Hunt is another ELECTION INTERFERENCE Scam,” Trump added. “They are cheaters and thugs!”
Renato Mariotti, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, wrote on Twitter that “this recording is even more damning than it reads in the indictment.”
“Trump used a document he admits was classified as a prop to brag and make himself feel important,” Mariotti wrote. “Ironically, moments earlier, Trump and his guest mocked Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified documents.”
“They say that a picture is worth a thousand words,” he added. “This audio could be worth a thousand days behind bars.”