‘Everything I did was right’: Trump claims he is the victim of ‘election of interference’ after revelations that he was caught on tape admitting he kept classified Pentagon document
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday insisted he had done nothing wrong in his handling of official papers as he finally responded to revelations that he was recorded discussing how he kept a classified Pentagon document after leaving the White House. A day earlier it emerged that federal prosecutors had been given an audio recording of him effectively admitting that he knew he had kept classified documents. He ignored shouted questions about he controversy as he hit the campaign trail in Iowa. But he was forced to answer when Fox News host Sean Hannity raised the issue in a televised townhall. ‘All I know is this everything I did was right,’ he said. ‘We have the Presidential Records Act, which I abided by 100 percent.’
He then quickly pivoted to attack President Joe Biden and official documents that were recovered from his home and office. Trump is the subject of a federal investigation into his handling of documents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago home. CNN obtained details of the recording, which related to plans for an attack on Iran. In it, Trump reportedly suggested that he wanted to share information from the document with others but knew there were limits to what he could declassify after he left office. The comments, made in July 2021 at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, would seem to undercut Trump’s repeated claims that he declassified the documents he took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate , after leaving office.
Trump sought to deflect the question with misleading attack on Biden in front of a friendly audience and host on Thursday evening. ‘Biden has 1850 boxes, with a lot of classified stuff that he’s not supposed to have in his case. I have the right to declassify as president,’ he said. ‘He’s got 1850 boxes that he doesn’t want anyone to see. He had seven or eight boxes in Chinatown in Washington DC when nobody even speaks English in Chinatown.’ The 1,850 boxes in fact refer to documents donated by Biden to the University of Delaware in 2012 from his time as a senator representing the state, and are not subject to the same strict controls as White House documents. A smaller number of documents, however, were recovered, from Biden’s office and home relating to his tenure as vice president. And a special counsel is investigating what happened, including their time at an office in Washington’s Chinatown and how some ended up stored next to a garage in his Delaware home. Trump compared that with the condemnation he received.
‘I have Secret Service all over the place. Mara Lago is a fort,’ he said. ‘It’s a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time. It’s a hoax.’ It was an example of ‘election interference,’ he added. That still leaves questions about the new recording. CNN reported that press aide Margo Martin (pictured) was regularly taping Trump at the time so that she could accurately depict his remarks in former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ memoirs. The recording could also be a key aid for prosecutors looking to prove Trump knew his ability to possess classified documents was limited.
It was provided to special counsel Jack Smith (pictured), whose team of prosecutors have spent months investigating the potential mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and whether Trump or anyone else sought to criminally obstruct the probe. The investigation shows signs of being in its final stages, with prosecutors having interviewed a broad cross-section of witnesses before the grand jury. Trump has not yet been charged in connection to the classified document handling and raid on his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, although he faces an ongoing case over hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. 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, belatedly, 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. Smith, the special counsel, is also investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election – the subject of a similar, ongoing inquiry by prosecutors in Atlanta. New York prosecutors charged Trump earlier this year with falsifying business records. Meadows’ autobiography includes a description of what appears to be the same meeting. A lawyer for Meadows (pictured) declined to comment Wednesday when reached by The Associated Press. Meadows was one of the highest-ranking Trump officials known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.
CNN said witnesses including Gen. Mark Milley (pictured), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been questioned about the episode. A spokesman for Milley declined to comment on reports that he had been interviewed. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment. A Trump spokesman said in a statement that the investigation was ‘meritless’ and amounted to ‘continued interference in the presidential election.’ Smith has finished collecting evidence into how confidential presidential files ended up at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. The newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, said Trump allies expect an indictment to be served. Special counsels enjoy broad autonomy within the Justice Department, and officials have repeatedly signaled that the recommendation on whether to pursue charges against Trump or anyone else in the investigation belongs with Smith and his team.
The investigation is seeking to determine whether Trump illegally retained classified documents taken with him from the White House to his Florida home after the end of his term and whether he sought to obstruct government efforts to get the records back. Smith’s work examines whether anyone tried to scupper the criminal inquiry, or whether Trump illegally held on to documents that he should have turned over to authorities. Trump insists he did nothing wrong, and says his power as president meant documents were automatically declassified if he chose to remove them from his official offices. But it is unclear whether the top attorney has gathered enough proof for Garland to charge the ex-commander-in-chief with a crime. Read the full story:
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