(CBrief) – Former President Donald Trump is facing dozens of federal counts over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after he was charged by special counsel Jack Smith last month.
But he took time out of his increasingly busy campaign schedule to address one of those documents that put him in the center of a raging new controversy after an audio of him discussing it with visitors was leaked to the media.
Smith charged Trump with 37 counts related to his handling of classified documents. If he is found guilty on all counts, Trump — President Joe Biden’s chief rival in next year’s presidential election — could face decades in prison.
Per the indictment, Trump is accused of sharing classified documents with multiple individuals lacking the necessary security clearances on two distinct occasions. The Department of Justice alleges that both instances occurred at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Details regarding one of the alleged instances were leaked to CNN.
The network reported on June 2 that federal prosecutors had “obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything.”
The charges “include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, a scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations,” ABC News reported.
But in a wide-ranging Fox News interview with Bret Baier on Monday, Trump said that he never showed anyone the classified U.S. military plan referred to in the audio recording to anyone.
The Epoch Times reports:
Trump insisted that he never showed any classified military plan to attack Iran prepared by General Mark Milley, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump says he never ordered the plan.
The meeting occurred on July 21, 2021, approximately six months after Trump’s presidency ended, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The meeting involved a writer, publisher, and two aides of the former president, and centered around a forthcoming book authored by Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff.
“There was no document,” Trump told Baier.
“That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” he continued. “And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document. I didn’t have a document, per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles,” he explained.
During the meeting, the 45th president said he found the Army general’s “plan of attack.” But he denied ordering Milley to create such a plan and said it was a misconception.
“I never ordered that to happen, no,” Trump told the Fox News anchor.
During the discussion, Baier brought up a concern about Trump’s description of a document as “secret,” which appeared to contradict his previous claims of having declassified all relevant materials. Trump clarified that his remark referred to his restricted authority to declassify documents once his presidency concluded. He further explained that the confidential nature of the source materials he possessed was the reason behind their classification as secret.
“What I said, that I couldn’t declassify now, that’s because I wasn’t president,” Trump said. “I’d never made any bones about that. When I’m not president, I can’t declassify.”
Trump attorney Christina Bobb told Newsmax last week that Trump had the authority to declassify documents at will while in the White House under the Presidential Records Act and could do so literally at will.
“Donald Trump was 100% authorized to keep everything he kept. And it was actually the Department of Justice that actually had to return materials because they took things they were not allowed to possess and had to return them,” she said.