Former President Donald Trump now says he was just waving around random sheets of paper when claimed on tape that he had classified documents related to a potential military strike against Iran.
“I would say it was bravado, if you want to know the truth, it was bravado,” Trump told reporters for Semafor and ABC News on Tuesday. “I was talking and just holding up papers and talking about them, but I had no documents. I didn’t have any documents.”
The 77-year-old former president claims that he was lying during a taped conversation while speaking to individuals working on a book for his former chief of staff at his Bedminster, NJ, golf club in July 2021.
The latest explanation from Trump expands on his insistence on Monday that the leaked audio recording of the meeting “is actually an exoneration.”
A redacted transcript of the recording was included in special counsel Jack Smith’s 37-count criminal indictment against Trump and is presented as a key piece of evidence in the government’s case against the former president over accusations that he willfully retained national defense information after leaving office.
“Isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know? Except it is like highly confidential, secret information,” Trump is heard saying in the tape as he tells two members of his staff and a writer and publisher working on a memoir for former aide Mark Meadows about a purported plan hatched by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to launch an attack against Iran.
“See, as president I could have declassified it,” Trump says in the recording, obtained by CNN Monday. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
Smith noted in the indictment that “none” of the parties involved in the conversation “possessed a security clearance.”
Trump on Tuesday claimed the papers – that can be heard being shuffled around and thumbed through on the recording – were not classified and consisted of whatever random papers happened to be on his desk during the meeting.
“I just held up a whole pile of — my desk is loaded up with papers. I have papers from 25 different things,” he said.
When asked by a reporter if he regretted how he handled sensitive material upon leaving the White House, Trump responded, “No, I have no regrets.”
“I didn’t have a classified document. There was no classified document on my desk,” he asserted.
The 2024 GOP presidential primary front-runner ended the interview when asked if he would consider a plea deal in Smith’s case.
“Frankly, that you even ask a question like that’s a disgrace,” Trump replied. “So let’s end it.”
Trump pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, one count of corruptly concealing a document or record, one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, one count of scheming to conceal a document or record and one count of making false statements at his arraignment in Miami earlier this month.