Trump heard in audio describing “highly confidential, secret” documents

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By Graham Kates

/ CBS News

Former President Donald Trump can be heard in an audio recording apparently showing and discussing — “off the record,” he says — what he describes as “highly confidential, secret” documents with a writer and aides in 2021.

“It is like highly confidential, secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack and….” Trump can be heard saying, before another person interrupts. The audio was first obtained by CNN, and has also been obtained by CBS News.

The July 2021 recording of a meeting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, was cited by special counsel Jack Smith in the indictment of Trump and an aide, Walt Nauta, on a combined 37 counts related to alleged mishandling of classified documents. Trump entered a not guilty plea to the charges on June 14, and Nauta is expected to plead not guilty at a hearing on Tuesday.

It is not clear from the indictment if the documents referred to in the recording were recovered by investigators. 

In the audio, Trump can be heard saying “these are the papers” and describing them as a plan of attack related to Iran. The clip is roughly two minutes of a conversation that sources told CBS News was approximately two hours long. CBS News and other news outlets had previously reported what Trump is heard saying on the tape. The audio appears to confirm the accuracy of those reports.

The sounds of shuffling papers can also be heard as he talks about the documents.

“See, as president I could have declassified, but now I can’t, you know. But this is classic,” Trump can be heard saying. “Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

When the existence of the tape first emerged in May, the special counsel declined to comment.

In the recording, Trump is speaking with aides to former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was preparing a memoir. 

The indictment identifies the group as “a writer, a publisher, and two members of” Trump’s staff, “none of whom possessed a security clearance.” The indictment alleges Trump describes a “plan of attack” that Trump said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official.

After the audio was published by news outlets, Trump said in a social media post that Smith “working in conjunction with the DOJ & FBI, illegally leaked and ‘spun’ a tape and transcript of me which is actually an exoneration, rather than what they would have you believe.”

Trump claimed in a June 19 Fox News interview that there were no classified documents present when the recording was made. 

“There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” Trump said. “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.”

Trial in the case is scheduled for Aug. 14, but on June 23, the special counsel requested that date be pushed back to Dec. 11. The special counsel said that Trump’s attorneys have not yet gotten security clearances needed to view much of the evidence in the case.

A judge has not ruled on that motion.

Graham Kates

Graham Kates is an investigative reporter covering criminal justice, privacy issues and information security for CBS News Digital. Contact Graham at or

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