Former President Donald Trump bizarrely insisted on Monday that a bombshell leaked audio that experts have called “damning” was actually an “exoneration.”
The recording, which was cited last month as part of Trump’s 37-count criminal indictment over his handling of national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, ostensibly reveals the ex-president bragging about possessing a secret document that he could not show others because he did not declassify it.
“These are the papers,” Trump says in the recording, undercutting his claim that he did not posses the actual document.
Trump cited a New Yorker report that said Chairman of the Joints Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley argued against striking Iran and referred to something “highly confidential.”
“He said that I wanted to attack Iran, Isn’t it amazing?” Trump says. “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.” The sound of papers shuffling is audible in the audio’s background.
“See as president I could have declassified it,” Trump added. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
On Monday, Trump harkened back to his usual justification for his antics, making claims of a perpetual “Witch Hunt” against him.
“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. “This continuing Witch Hunt is another ELECTION INTERFERENCE Scam. They are cheaters and thugs!”
An all-caps rant ensued early Tuesday morning, with Trump continuing his attack on Smith.
“COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO THE DERANGED, TRUMP HATING JACK SMITH, HIS FAMILY, AND HIS FRIENDS, THAT AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I COME UNDER THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT, AS AFFIRMED BY THE CLINTON SOCKS CASE, NOT BY THIS PSYCHOS’ FANTASY OF THE NEVER USED BEFORE ESPIONAGE ACT OF 1917. ‘SMITH’ SHOULD BE LOOKING AT CROOKED JOE BIDDEN AND ALL OF THE CRIMES THAT HE HAS PERPETRATED ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC, INCLUDING THE MILLIONS & MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HE EXTORTED FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES!” Trump wrote.
But Trump’s allies worry that he may not be able to overcome the audio recording.
“There are some people around Trump who were pretty candid, who have been around Trump who are pretty candid that this is just not a good fact set for him,” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN. “It doesn’t that they won’t find a defense for it, it doesn’t mean that they won’t argue all kinds of other things at trial or even before a trial, such as selected prosecution.”
Haberman added that “what has been said to me by several people is that this tape is the most damning piece of evidence that they know of existing in this case.”
“It doesn’t mean that there are other things that are problematic for him,” she added. “I am guessing that some of these tapes or other book interviews or other interviews he sat for, this is very specific and this was just… he knew his aides taped these meetings, it is not like this was a secret recording.”
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Former Trump Associate White House Counsel James Schultz told the network that the audio bolsters the government’s case.
“Really, if anything it bolsters it, right? If this evidence is admissible – and I imagine they’re going to try to challenge on a number of different fronts, I’m not sure where they make their argument here to exclude this evidence. But if it is admissible in court, it’s certainly troubling for their defense,” he told CNN.
“It bolsters the government’s claim under the Espionage Act,” Schultz continued. “It also bolsters their claim, you know, under the obstruction case because one of the things he’s been saying all along is that he can just wave a magic wand and these documents are declassified. And in this instance, in his own words, he’s saying it’s not declassified. So that’s very troubling for him, no doubt about it.”
about the Trump indictment