Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.As Donald Trump prepares to fight his second indictment in two months—the latest stemming from Department of Justice allegations that he mishandled classified documents after leaving office—he seems to be facing a major, self-inflicted problem. Multiple news outlets are now reporting that they have obtained the transcript of an audio recording that appears to capture Trump bragging about retaining secret documents.
“Secret. This is secret information,” Trump says in the conversation, according to the transcript CNN received. “Look, look at this. This was done by the military and given to me.”
Perhaps more critically, the transcript also reportedly shows that Trump admitted to not declassifying the documents he is heard bragging about in the recording. This would significantly undermine Trump’s previous assertion that as president, he could declassify anything he wanted by merely “thinking about it“—and that the documents he retained were, therefore, no longer classified. Trump’s own lawyers notably declined to support that shaky defense after the FBI’s search at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, which, of course, uncovered among many items, dozens of empty folders marked “classified.”
“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump reportedly says in the bombshell transcript.
The New York Times reports that the remark prompted a woman in the room to reply, “Now we have a problem.”
It’s unclear if and when the audio itself will be released to the public. If it includes everything that’s been reported this morning, it would certainly extend Trump’s extraordinary record of blowing up his own legal defenses with his very own words. Of course, it might not change much politically; most prominent Republicans, including Kevin McCarthy and Ron DeSantis, have predictably blasted the Justice Department; others have echoed Trump’s complaint that the federal charges mark a “sad day for America.”
One Republican who isn’t kowtowing? Mitt Romney, who blasted the former president for bringing “these charges upon himself.”
Romney says Trump “brought these charges upon himself”
“By all appearances, the Justice Department and special counsel have exercised due care, affording Mr. Trump the time and opportunity to avoid charges that would not generally have been afforded to others.” pic.twitter.com/WBZ8Yivd9c
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) June 9, 2023