Donald Trump Says 'Secret' Documents He Describes on Footage Referenced to News Clippings

Former President Donald J. Trump claimed to a Fox News anchor in an interview on Monday that he had no classified documents with him in meetings with book publishers although he referred during those meetings to “secret” information in his possession.

The July 2021 meeting — at Mr. Trump's golf club in Bedminster, NJ — was recorded by at least two people in attendance, and a transcript depicts the former president pointing to a pile of papers and then saying of General Mark A. Milley, whom he has criticized: “Look . Here he is. They gave me this – it's off the tape, but – they gave me this. Here he is. This is the Department of Defense and him.”

In the recording, according to two people familiar with its contents, Trump can be heard flipping through papers as he talks with publishers and writers who are working on a book by his last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Mr Trump and those at the meeting did not explicitly say what documents the former president held.

According to the transcript, Trump described the document, which he claimed showed General Milley's desire to attack Iran, as “secret” and “like, top secret.” He also stated that “as president, I could have declassified it,” adding, “Now I can't, you know, but it's still a secret.”

But in an interview on Monday, with Fox News anchor Bret Baier, Trump denied he was referring to actual documents and claimed he was only referring to news and magazine clippings.

“There are no documents,” Trump said. “It was a huge amount of papers and everything that talked about Iran and stuff. And it may or may not be withheld, but it's not a document. I don't have my own documents. Nothing to declassify. These are newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.

Apparently playing down the information on the tape, he added, “I don't think I've ever seen the docs from Milley.”

The audio recordings are key evidence in the indictment charging Trump with illegally storing 31 sensitive government documents, some of which are highly classified and include information about US nuclear and military capabilities. The indictment was filed this month by Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice, at the Federal District Court in Miami. The indictment also accuses Trump of conspiring with one of his aides, Walt Nauta, to circumvent a grand jury subpoena issued last May for all classified material in his possession.

General Milley's typed document descriptions appear in Mr. Milley's book. Meadows, without attribution and stated as fact.

Criminal accused usually avoid speaking publicly about the details of any charges in their case, for fear that their comments will be used against them. The interview was broadcast the same day that a federal judge in the Trump case issued a protective order instructing him not to disclose any evidence that had been submitted to his legal team as part of the discovery process.

While the interview does not appear to violate that order, his statements represent some of his most far-reaching comments about the nearly two years federal officials spent trying to extract material from his presidency that belonged to the government. The comments are also the latest in a series of changing stories he and his allies have offered since it became known that officials at the National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of material from Trump in January 2022.

Earlier in an interview with Mr Baier, Mr Trump appeared to admit that even after the Justice Department issued subpoenas last year for all classified documents in his possession, he had delayed complying with them in order to separate any private records that might have existed. among them.

“Before I ship the box, I have to get all my stuff out,” Trump said. “These boxes are interspersed with all kinds of things.”

Mr Trump also acknowledged that he had not complied immediately with an earlier request to return government records to the archives, telling Mr Baier he provided “some” files and maintaining, “I am very busy, as you do. seen.”

A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February 2022, after the public learned that Trump had returned classified material to the archives, the former president directed his aides to issue a statement saying he had returned everything to the government. The last statement issued by the Trump team does not make this claim.

But a draft version of the statement became the focus of prosecutors who submitted evidence and heard grand jury testimony in Florida, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination for 2024, and his allies have provided growing explanations for their possession of classified material and repeatedly refused to return it. He insisted that all the documents were his for private records. He also claimed that he declassified everything he deleted before leaving the White House, via a so-called standing order that the material was declassified when he left the Oval Office to go to a White House residence. Former senior White House officials said there was no such order.

And last month, attorney Mr. Trump wrote a letter to Congress saying his staff “quickly packed everything into boxes and shipped it to Florida,” leaving the impression that Mr. in the box when packed.

The indictment contradicts those claims, with prosecutors saying Trump “was personally involved in this process” and “caused his box, which contained hundreds of classified documents, to be transported from the White House to the Mar-a-Lago club.”

In his interview with Mr. Baier, the former president indicated he had been sorting boxes after being shipped from Washington to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida.

At one point, Mr. Baier asked Mr. Trump why he didn't just hand over the material.

“I want to go through the boxes and get all my personal things out,” Trump said. “I don't want to hand it over to NARA yet.”