Following his indictment by special counsel Jack Smith last month, former president Donald Trump is now accused of mishandling several secret materials on hundreds of criminal counts.
However, he took time out of his increasingly hectic campaign schedule to address one of those documents that, after an audio recording of him discussing it with visitors was leaked to the media, thrust him in the center of a fiery new controversy.
Smith filed 37 accusations against Trump for handling top-secret secrets. President Joe Biden’s main opponent in the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump, could spend years in prison if he is found guilty on all counts.
According to the indictment, Trump is accused of exchanging confidential documents twice with various people who lacked the required security clearances. Both incidents allegedly took place at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to the Department of Justice.
CNN received information about one of the reported incidents.
The network reported on June 2 that federal prosecutors had “obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything.”
The charges “include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, a scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations,” ABC News reported.
But in a lengthy interview with Bret Baier on Fox News on Monday, Trump claimed that he never showed anyone the top-secret American military strategy that is mentioned in the audio recording.
The Epoch Times reports:
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.
“There was no document,” Trump told Baier.
“That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” he continued. “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,” he explained.
The 45th president declared during the meeting that he had discovered the Army general’s “plan of attack.” However, he denied giving Milley such instructions and claimed the rumor was untrue.
“I never ordered that to happen, no,” Trump told the Fox News anchor.
During the conversation, Baier expressed alarm over Trump’s designation of a document as “secret,” which appeared to go against his earlier assertions that all pertinent papers had been declassified. Trump stressed that his remark was in reference to his limited authority to declassify records after he left office. He went on to say that the sources he had were secret because of their confidential nature, which is why he had them.
“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.”
Last week, Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb claimed to Newsmax that the Presidential Records Act gave Trump the freedom to literally declassify papers whenever he wanted while in the White House.
“Donald Trump was 100% authorized to keep everything he kept. And it was actually the Department of Justice that actually had to return materials because they took things they were not allowed to possess and had to return them,” she said.