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Donald Trump was caught in a bombshell conversation admitting he didn’t classify secret military intelligence he took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and displayed it to people without security officials.
A transcript of his conversation was published in the indictment of the former president released by the Justice Department on Friday afternoon.
Trump was hit with a total of 37 charges for his handling of classified documents, including 31 counts of Wilful Retention of National Defense Information under the Espionage Act. He will appear in a Miami court on Tuesday afternoon and has already said he will plead not guilty.
The indictment reveals Trump showed at least five people who did not have the proper clearance highly classified information, outling two separate incidents where this happened.
This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records in a storage room at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., that had fallen over with contents spilling onto the floor
At his Bedminister, N.J., golf club in May 2021, Trump had a conversation with a writer and a publisher in connection with a then-forthcoming book about his former chief of staff Mark Meadows. Two members of Trump’s staff were also present.
During the chat, Trump revealed he had retained ‘secret’ military information on Iran.
Before the interview, there were reports in the media that then-Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs General Mark Milley feared Trump might order an attack on Iran and advised the then-president against it. In the indictment, Milley is referred to as a senior military official.
The indictment reveals that – upon greeting the writer, publisher, and his two staff members, Trump said: ‘Look what I found, this was [the Senior Military Official’s] plan of attack, read it and just show . . . it’s interesting.’
Trump engaged in the following exchange, as outlined in the 44 page indictment.
Trump: Well, with [the Senior Military Official]—uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack [Country A]. Isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. 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: We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff—pages long, look.
Trump: Wait a minute, let’s see here.
Staffer: [Laughter] Yeah.
Trump: I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know.
Trump: Except it is like, highly confidential.
Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter]
Trump: Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack, and— * * *
Trump: By the way. Isn’t that incredible?
Trump: I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said, ‘he wanted to attack [Country A], and what . . .’
Staffer: You did.
Trump: This was done by the military and given to me. Uh, I think we can probably, right?
Staffer: I don’t know, we’ll, we’ll have to see. Yeah, we’ll have to try to—
Trump: Declassify it.
Staffer: —figure out a—yeah.
Trump: See as president I could have declassified it.
Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter]
Trump: Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.
Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter] Now we have a problem.
Trump: Isn’t that interesting?
The indictment notes that neither the writer, nor the publisher nor the two Trump staffers had the security clearance to see any classified material.
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The indictment also outlines a second incident in August or September 2021. Trump met in his Bedminister office with a representative of his political action committee, where he talked about an ongoing military operation in a country whose name was redacted.
Trump showed the PAC representative a map of that country and told the ‘representative that he should not be showing the map to the PAC Representative and to not get too close,’ the indictment.
The transcripts shows that Trump understood that some of the records he took to his Florida home remained classified. He had previously argued that the president can declassify anything he wants, and has used that his defense when faced with questions on the sensitive files.
Trump was at his Bedminister, New Jersey, golf club on Thursday night when his lawyers informed him he was facing the federal indictment. He posted the news himself to his Truth Social account.
The indictment was unveiled on Friday. It says Trump ’caused’ scores of boxes, including those with classified information, to be transported to his home at Mar-a-Lago, a private club in West Palm Beach.
And it was filled with colorful photos that show boxes of records piled up in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom. Another picture shows a box fell over and spilled documents on the floor, including one that contained classified information.
The documents note in dry language that Mar-a-Lago – an ‘active social club’ – was ‘not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display’ or discussion of classified documents.
It also outlines the role of Walter Nauta, Trump’s former military valet who left the White House to go with him to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency.
The charging document contains black and white images of boxes of documents stored at Mar-a-Lago
The indictment reveals Trump looked through several boxes of documents before they were returned to the National Archives – and he did so with the aid of Nauta.
Between November 2021 and January 2022, Nauta and another employee brought boxes of documents to Trump’s residence in the social club and sent the former president a photo to confirm they there, the indictment revealed.
Nauta told the employee that Trump was “working” on the boxes. There were reports the former president went through the material before it was sent to the National Archives.
The indictment includes several text messages between Nauta and another employee about moving various boxes to the residence for Trump.
On January 17, 2022 Nauta returned 15 boxes to the archives.
The indictment charges Nauta with making false statements to investigators, where he had denied moving the boxes.
It says Trump directed Nauta to move boxes of documents ‘to conceal them from Trump’s attorney, the FBI, and the grand jury,’ and that Trump suggested his attorney ‘falsely represent’ to the FBI that Trump didn’t have documents to comply with the subpoena.
That comes after Special Counsel Jack Smith’s lawyers persuaded a judge to to compel Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify by citing the crime-fraud exception.
He also provided the FBI ‘just some of the documents’ and said he caused a certification falsely representing all documents had been produced.
The indictment names Nauta as a co-conspirator, noting that he served as Trump’s Navy valet as president, then went on to become his aide when he left the White House.
The grainy black and white images, which appear to be from security cameras, retrace the long journey from room to room that the documents took.
In the aftermath, Trump turned DJ and played his favorite tunes from Pavarotti to James Brown just 90 minutes after he discovered he was facing the historic federal indictment that could see him jailed for 100 years.
After making a roaring statement on Truth Social, where he declared ‘I AM AN INNOCENT MAN’, Trump appeared to calm his nerves by having dinner at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, before playing disk jockey all night.
Wearing a Make America Great Again cap and pretending to be a DJ, Trump blasted Elvis, amongst his other favorite songs, a source told the New York Times.
It is not the first time the 76-year-old has taken to throwing a bash in the face of criminal charges. After being indicted for the first time in April when he was accused of paying porn star Stormy Daniels hush-money, Trump threw a bash at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump had been at Bedminster when the news of his fresh charges broke. He denies the allegations and states he is innocent
The former president’s legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified documents case.
The special counsel has a separate probe underway focused on efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election while the district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in that state.
Trump will appear in court in Miami at 3pm on Tuesday, where the most recent charges will be put to him. Security has already been increased around the courthouse ahead of his appearance before the judge.
He has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that could lead to criminal charges.