Former President Donald Trump responded with fury Monday after CNN published an audio file of him discussing a sensitive military document he kept after leaving the White House, saying the recording actually exonerates him and reflects an ongoing witch hunt at the Justice Department.
“The Deranged Special Prosecutor, Jack Smith, working in conjunction with the DOJ & FBI, illegally leaked and ‘spun’ a tape and transcript of me which is actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This continuing Witch Hunt is another ELECTION INTERFERENCE Scam. They are cheaters and thugs!”
CNN was the first to publish the 2-minute audio earlier in the day, a key bit of evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of the former president. In the clip, Trump references a document he says was compiled by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was president, on potential attacks against Iran.
“They presented me this ― this is off the record, but ― they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him,” Trump says of Milley in the audio as papers are heard shuffling in the background.
He then tells his guests the documents were classified, saying the papers were “highly confidential” and “secret.”
See, as president I could have declassified it,” Trump added. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
Trump was arraigned on 37 criminal charges earlier this month related to his handling of classified files after he left the White House and his alleged efforts to obstruct the government’s attempts to see those documents returned.
The former president has rejected the charges and pleaded not guilty on all counts earlier this month. He has repeatedly claimed he had the right to take anything he wanted from the White House and that he had a standing order to declassify anything that left the Oval Office.
But the latest audio appears to undercut those claims as he acknowledges the secret nature of the files he had with him.