Former President Donald Trump was recorded in 2021 acknowledging that he had kept “secret” military documents from his time in office without first declassifying them.
The recording of the 76-year-old’s admission has been obtained by federal prosecutors, who secured an indictment of Trump on charges including willful retention of national defense information after retrieving thousands of documents from his Mar-a-Lago resort.
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump, 76, said about a classified Pentagon paper outlining a potential military strike on Iran, according to a transcript of the meeting reported by CNN.
“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” the 45th president also said. “This was done by the military and given to me.”
Special Counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump on seven counts as part of an investigation into Trump’s mishandling of government documents after leaving the White House in January 2021.
Trump’s attorney, Jim Trusty, told CNN Thursday night that the ex-commander-in-chief had received a summons to appear in Miami federal court on Tuesday afternoon.
Trusty added the summons included references to a violation of the Espionage Act and charges of obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records and potentially conspiracy.
“Again, this is not Biblically accurate because I’m not looking at a charging document,” he noted.
Trump announced the news of his indictment Thursday on his Truth Social account.
“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax,” he said.
It’s not clear whether any of the charges stem from the recorded July 2021 meeting.
Trump has maintained that he declassified all documents he took with him when he began his post-presidential life at Mar-a-Lago, but he reportedly said in the meeting on Iran that he was limited in sharing details about military plans.
During the meeting, the former president apparently discussed “a four-page report” from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, which contained plans for an Iran strike involving massive numbers of US troops.
Prosecutors in Smith’s office have reportedly questioned Milley as a witness for their investigation.
A July 2021 article in The New Yorker quoted Milley as saying Trump wanted to move forward with the strike after the 2020 election, to which the general responded, “If you do this, you’re gonna have a f—king war.”
But Trump blamed Milley the same month for having authored the military plan, according to the meeting transcript reported by CNN.
“Well, with Milley — uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” he said. “They presented me this — this is off the record, but — they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”
“All sorts of stuff — pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump added.
The meeting occurred at the former president’s golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where staff and communications aide Margo Martin were discussing an autobiography of former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The FBI seized classified material from Trump’s Palm Beach estate on Aug. 8, after the National Archives and Records Administration had repeatedly asked the former president to hand over the documents.
Smith is also helming a separate investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
President Biden is also facing a federal investigation for his handling of other classified documents, following his years as a US Senator and vice president during the Obama administration.
The FBI took several classified documents from the president’s Delaware home and a former Washington, DC, office he had. Others were handed over voluntarily.