CNN on Friday released the transcript of a conversation Donald Trump had in 2021 in which the former US president allegedly admitted that he kept confidential documents at his home in Mar-a-lago, Florida, and that he was acutely aware of the fact that those documents were still confidential, and should not have been in his possession. Already in recent days CNN had made known the existence of the recording, but the content in detail was not yet known.
Precisely because of the confidential documents found by the FBI in his villa, Trump was indicted on Thursday, and it is the first time that a former president has been tried for federal crimes. Trump has always maintained that those documents had been declassified when he was still president, and that therefore he could take them with him to Florida. But the transcript reported by CNN would disprove that. In the conversation, Trump discusses a Pentagon document regarding classified military information, and says:
“As president I could have declassified him, but now I can’t.”
The conversation dates back to July of 2021 and was made at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. On that occasion Trump met with two people who were working on the autobiography of Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, and the conversation was recorded by one of the two present.
During the meeting Trump comments on an article published a few days earlier by the New Yorker in which it was claimed that Mark Milley, chief of staff of the US armed forces, had prevented him from attacking Iran in Trump’s last months in the presidency.
Trump replies that he has a Pentagon document with him which would instead demonstrate how Milley was pushing to attack Iran, but that this document could not be disclosed because it was confidential. At that point Trump shows his interlocutors some papers, including presumably the confidential one from the Pentagon, and tells them that if he could show them in public he could deny what was written by the New Yorker, but that he precisely cannot do so because they are covered by secrecy.