US prosecutors have reportedly obtained an audio recording in which Donald Trump acknowledges retaining a classified document after leaving the White House. The news was first reported by CNN, and sources later confirmed this to the BBC’s US partner, CBS. The justice department is currently investigating Trump’s handling of classified material, which he denies any wrongdoing in. The inquiry is said to be approaching its conclusion and could potentially result in charges being filed.
The audio recording is believed to be from a meeting at Trump’s New Jersey golf club in July 2021, approximately six months after he left office. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Trump can be heard acknowledging the national security restrictions on a military memo because it outlines a potential attack on Iran. He reportedly states that the document is still classified and should have been declassified before he left the White House.
Trump also mentions his desire to share information from the document but admits his ability to declassify it is limited since he is no longer president, as reported by CNN. It remains unclear whether Trump had the document with him during the meeting or was merely describing it to several aides present. Other reports suggest the sound of rustling paper can be heard in the recording.
The audio tape seems to contradict Trump’s repeated claims that he declassified all material he removed from the White House. It could also serve as crucial evidence if prosecutors attempt to demonstrate that the former president knew he should not possess classified documents.
Neither the BBC nor CBS News have listened to the audio, and it has not been made public. The recording has been handed over to justice department investigators, overseen by special prosecutor Jack Smith. The investigation, which has intensified in recent weeks, examines the removal of hundreds of classified government documents from the White House, which were then taken to Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, after he left office. The investigators are evaluating how these documents were stored and who may have had access to them. Additionally, they are looking into how Trump’s team responded to a request for security footage from his Florida estate.
Smith will ultimately decide whether the former president should face criminal charges. The justice department believes Trump may have violated the Espionage Act by retaining national security information after leaving office, among other statutes.
Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, faces several other legal investigations. He was recently indicted in New York over hush money payments made to a porn star and has pleaded not guilty. Furthermore, he is the subject of an investigation in Georgia regarding his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state.
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