- CNN reported Trump was captured on audio in 2021 admitting he took a classified document.
- Federal prosecutors investigating Trump’s handling of the documents have the recording, CNN said.
- Trump has previously said that all documents he took with him when he left office have been declassified.
Following a new report from CNN about an audio recording that suggests former President Donald Trump knowingly took a classified document, legal experts say it could be the damning evidence needed to charge him under the Criminal Investigations Act. ‘spying.
CNN reported Wednesday that multiple sources spoke to the outlet about a recording obtained by federal prosecutors in which Trump admitted to taking a classified document detailing a potential attack on Iran. The recording included Trump saying he was unsure if he could declassify the records after leaving the presidency, two sources said. The New York Times and CBS News have also confirmed the existence of the recording.
CNN said he had not listened to the recording, but was told about it by sources who called it “important” evidence. The sources said Jack Smith, the special counsel leading the Justice Department’s investigations into Trump, focused on the summer 2021 meeting in which the audio recording was made.
Trump, whose Mar-A-Lago compound and residence was searched by the FBI in August, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and insisted that all documents recovered were “automatically” declassified. According to court documents, the raid revealed numerous documents containing classified marks, some of which were labeled “top secret”. CNN reported that the recording contradicts Trump’s claim that he believed the documents had been declassified.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump violated several laws, including the Espionage Act, which prohibits the sharing of information that could harm the United States or give advantage to foreign countries. The law concerns the “collection, transmission or loss of defense information”, including any national defense document that has been “illegally removed from its proper place of custody … to be lost, stolen, abstracted or destroyed “.
In a statement provided to Insider, a Trump spokesperson accused the Justice Department of interfering in the 2024 election and said, “Leaks from radical supporters behind this political persecution are designed to inflame tensions and continue the media harassment of President Trump and his supporters.”
Legal experts respond to reports from the audio recording
“This is absolutely exceptional evidence,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, wrote on Twitter about the reported audio. “It proves that Trump *knew* he kept highly classified documents after he left office, that he was sharing classified information with people who did not have clearance, and ‘suggests…he was aware of the limits’ of his ability to declassify.”
Pierre Strzoka former FBI agent, also said the audio as described would be “huge” to support an espionage charge by filling in key gaps, including that the alleged audio could potentially show Trump was aware of the proceedings of declassification, knew he had not done so, and possibly informed an unauthorized person of the existence of the document.
“Make no mistake about it. This is squarely a case of espionage. It’s not just a case of ‘obstruction'”, ryan bonmanNew York University law professor specializing in national security, wrote on Twitter, adding, “There is now every reason to expect former President Trump to be charged” under the espionage law.
“The law fits his reported conduct like a hand in hand,” Goodman said.
Richard W. Painterwho served as the White House’s chief ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, also said it was a “clear violation of the Espionage Act,” adding that “The DOJ has no choice but to indict Trump.”