Donald Trump Indicted In Classified Documents Case; CNN Obtains Transcript Of Key Audio Recording — Update

Donald Trump Indicted In Classified Documents Case; CNN Obtains Transcript Of Key Audio Recording — Update

UPDATE, 5:38 a.m. PT, Friday: Donald Trump’s federal indictment has not yet been unsealed, but some details are emerging of what evidence the Justice Department’s special counsel Jack Smith has gathered.

CNN reported on Friday that it obtained the transcript of an audio recording in which Trump, at a meeting in 2021 when he was out of office, admitted that he retained military information that he had not declassified.

“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” Trump said, according to CNN. Trump was discussing a classified document about an attack on Iran, according to the network.

The audio recording was obtained by prosecutors, but it is unclear if it is a factor in the indictment.

Trump has previously claimed that the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago were declassified, but that defense has been questioned given the lack of a record of such a move when he was in the White House.

Since Trump himself broke the news of the indictment on Thursday evening, a number of his allies and his Republican rivals have come to his defense, picking up on his theme that the charges are politically motivated. But some political commentators have noted the irony that Trump is now being charged for something that was at the center of his claims against Hillary Clinton in 2016: Mishandling of classified information.

PREVIOUSLY: Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on federal charges related to his handling of classified documents.

Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media platform, that the Justice Department informed his attorneys that he had been indicated and that he has been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami. Other media outlets quickly confirmed the indictments.

The charges stem from his withholding of the government documents after he left office in 2021 and then obstructing federal efforts to retrieve them. That led to an FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago last year.

The indictment has not yet be unsealed. Trump’s attorney, Jim Trusty, told CNN that there are seven counts including obstruction, false statements and willful retention of documents, and the charges included those related to the Espionage Act. He also believed that there was a conspiracy count, cautioning that he has not yet seen the indictment but only a summary sheet.

Cable and broadcast outlets broke into regular programming to report on the indictment, which marks that first time that a former president has faced federal criminal charges.

Pierre Thomas, chief justice correspondent for ABC News, told David Muir, “This is perhaps one of the most consequential investigations the Justice Department has done in recent memory. We are talking about investigating a former president who is seeking to be re-elected.”

Trump was indicted in April in New York on 30 state felony charges related to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels in advance of the 2016 presidential election. Trump plead not guilty to the allegations.

The federal charges, however, are viewed as potentially more serious for the ex-president, even if he has so far maintained a solid lead in GOP polls despite the legal troubles. He has maintained that the charges are politically motivated and has attacked the special prosecutor, Jack Smith, who brought the case. In his Truth Social message, he called the case the “Boxes Hoax,” apparently referring to the documents with classified markings found at Mar-a-Lago. In a lengthy video posted to Truth Social, Trump said he was “an innocent man, and innocent person.”

Trump was informed this week that he was the target of the Justice Department investigation, leading to speculation that an indictment was imminent. Federal prosecutors reportedly have gathered evidence to allege not just that Trump possessed the documents, but that he tried to conceal them after receiving a subpoena. There have been reports that Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage showing that, on the day before federal prosecutors were to arrive to retrieve the material, someone took the documents out of a storage room. Federal agents searched Mar-a-Lago in August and retrieved additional classified documents, along with other presidential materials. All told, Trump is suspected of mishandling more than 100 classified documents.

Trump has been railing against the investigation, claiming that he was being treated differently from President Joe Biden. A separate special prosecutor has been investigating Biden’s handling of classified material following the discovery of documents at his Wilmington home and his post-vice presidential offices in Washington, D.C.

There was some concern that the Justice Department had not issued any statement or revealed any details about the indictment, ceding the initial narrative to Trump and his allies. Anthony Coley, who served as Justice Department spokesman earlier in the Biden administration, wrote on Twitter that he imagined that federal prosecutors will soon petition to have the indictment unsealed. “Not doing so would allow Trump to fill the space w/ misinformation. Imperative for DOJ to get records unsealed w/n next 24 hours,” he wrote. Trump’s already have been accusing the DOJ of prosecutorial misconduct, and Trusty did so again in his CNN appearance. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also weighed in, warning that “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is Trump’s closest challenger to the GOP nomination, wrote on Twitter, “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”

Another of Trump’s GOP rivals, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said that the ongoing criminal proceedings “will be a major distraction” in the presidential campaign. “This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign.”

On ABC News, chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said that “the devil is going to be in the details here … on convincing the American public one way or the other. It’s very easy for people who are against Donald Trump to celebrate the indictment. It is very easy for people who want to support Donald Trump to just say, ‘Well, this is a witch hunt.’ The critical point is going to be, what do they have? What’s the proof? What’s the evidence? What can they present in court?”

Trump’s run for the presidency against the backdrop of criminal indictments already has created an extraordinary and unprecedented political situation, one that he has already tried to turn to his advantage with fundraising emails and further claims that the justice system was rigged. It’s also put his Republican rivals in a spot: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has criticized Trump for his role on January 6, nevertheless said that an indictment would be divisive and that the DOJ had to meet a “very high threshold.”

Smith also is investigating Trump’s role on January 6th and the efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. A Georgia also is investigating efforts to reverse the results in that state.