In a major development, former US President Donald Trump acknowledged that he had retained “secret” military information that he had not declassified. According to a transcript of the audio recording obtained by CNN, the former President had acknowledged this during a meeting in 2021.
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump says, according to the transcript.
According to the transcript, a portion of the meeting where Trump is discussing a classified Pentagon document about attacking Iran. In the audio recording, which CNN previously reported was obtained by prosecutors, Trump says that he did not declassify the document he’s referencing, according to the transcript.
The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether Trump took steps to obstruct the government's efforts to recover the records.
Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department's investigation. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.
Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the retention of national defence information, destruction of government records and obstruction. Since then, the Justice Department has amassed additional evidence and secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own lawyers. The statutes governing the handling of classified records and obstruction are felonies that could carry years in prison in the event of a conviction.