Justice Department prosecutors have an audio recording of former President Trump from after he left office in which he talks about holding onto a classified Pentagon document related to a potential attack on Iran. CNN, which first reported on the tape, said Trump suggested on the recording that he wanted to share information from the document with others but that he knew there were limitations about his ability to declassify records after he left office. The recording, made in July 2021 at his golf club in New Jersey, would seem to undercut the former president’s repeated claims that he declassified the documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, after leaving office, reports the Associated Press. The recording could be a key aid for prosecutors looking to prove Trump knew his ability to possess classified documents was limited.
The recording has been provided to special counsel Jack Smith, whose team has spent months investigating the potential mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and whether Trump or anyone else sought to obstruct the probe. The investigation shows signs of being in its final stages, with prosecutors having interviewed a broad cross-section of witnesses before a grand jury. The criminal investigation began last year after the National Archives and Records Administration alerted the FBI to the presence of classified documents in 15 boxes of records sent back from Mar-a-Lago by Trump and his representatives. Investigators initially issued a subpoena for remaining classified records, but after they received only about three dozen during a June 2022 visit to Mar-a-Lago, returned with a search warrant two months later and recovered about 100 more documents marked as classified.