Trump Denies Showing Classified Military Document in Audio-Recorded Meeting
Former President Donald Trump said Monday that he did not show the classified U.S. military document that he referred to during an audio-recorded meeting with a book publisher in July 2021.
In the first of a two-part Fox News interview on Monday, Trump insisted that he never showed any classified military plan to attack Iran prepared by General Mark Milley, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump says he never ordered the plan.
The meeting occurred on July 21, 2021, approximately six months after Trump’s presidency ended, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The meeting involved a writer, publisher, and two aides of the former president, and centered around a forthcoming book authored by Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff.
In his first post-indictment interview, Trump—who is facing federal charges concerning his handling of classified documents—defended his actions. This issue is among the many legal challenges Trump currently faces as he campaigns for another term as president in 2024.
A recent indictment accusing him of unlawfully retaining 31 sensitive government documents includes a partial transcript of the audio recording in which Trump referred to a document with those present at the July 2021 meeting that he described as “secret” and classified.
Contrary to the charges made in the indictment, Trump insisted during Monday’s Fox News interview, “There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things. 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’s alleged July 2021 remarks were in response to media reports, including articles published by The New Yorker, which alleged that Milley had concerns about Trump potentially initiating a coup in the United States to prevent the transfer of power after he lost the election or attacking Iran. At the time, tensions between Trump and Milley were high.
Trump emphasized during the Fox News interview that no document was present during the meeting, dismissing witness testimony to the contrary as dishonest.
‘I Never Ordered That’
According to the indictment, at the meeting, Trump stated that he found Milley’s “plan of attack.” He denied ordering Milley to create such a plan, claiming it was a misconception.
“I never ordered that to happen, no,” Trump told Fox.
Media outlets, including CNN, cited unnamed sources who told the outlet that Trump briefly ruffled some papers, saying that he could not show them as proof of Milley’s intent to attack Iran due to their classified nature.
“Well, with [the Senior Military Official]—uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example,” Trump said, according to the indictment.
The media reports identified the “Senior Military Official” as Milley.
“He said that I wanted to attack [Iran]. Isn’t it amazing?” Trump said. “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 went on to say, without verbally referring to any document in particular, that, “This totally wins my case, you know.”
“Except it is like, highly confidential,” he added.
“Yeah,” a staffer says.
“Secret. This is secret information,” Trump says.
“This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump says later in the exchange, before asking a question that is answered by a staffer: “Uh, I think we can probably, right?”
“I don’t know, we’ll, we’ll have to see. Yeah, we’ll have to try to—”
“Declassify it,” Trump said.
“—figure out a—yeah,” the staffer continues.
“See, as president, I could have declassified it,” Trump said, referring to the information he was aware of. It remains unverified whether Trump has holding the classified documents or news clippings about the content of the classified documents in his hands.
“Yeah,” says a staffer.
“Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” Trump says.
The indictment argued that the writer, publisher, and two aides present at the meeting did not possess security clearances or a legitimate need for classified information concerning an attack plan on Iran.
During the interview, Fox News’ Brett Baier questioned Trump about his use of the term “secret” to describe the document, suggesting that it contradicted his previous claims of having declassified all relevant materials. Trump clarified that his statement referred to his lack of authority to declassify documents after leaving the presidency, and that the nature of the source materials related to what he held on hand was secret.
“What I said, that I couldn’t declassify now, that’s because I wasn’t president,” Trump said. “I’d never made any bones about that. When I’m not president, I can’t declassify.”
At that point, the classified information had already been reported on by media outlets, which is what Trump claims he was referring to in the transcript.
The audio recording serves as crucial evidence in the indictment against Trump, accusing him of unlawfully retaining 31 sensitive government documents, including highly classified information on U.S. nuclear and military capabilities.
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