Donald Trump was taped implying that he kept a secret Pentagon document about a possible attack on Iran after he left the White House.
Such a shot could potentially increase his legal exposure as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The Justice Department is in the final stages of an investigation into whether the 76-year-old Trump broke the law by removing government documents, including some classified as top secret, when he left office in 2017.
The tape recording is from a July 2021 meeting at Mr. Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
It involved two people working on an autobiography for Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, and several of the former president’s aides.
Margo Martin, a communications specialist for Trump, regularly recorded interviews he did for books.
She was reportedly asked about the July 2021 Bedminster taping while appearing before a grand jury as part of the Justice Department’s investigation.
Trump angry at General Milley
The part related to the Iran document would be about two minutes long.
Trump was reportedly angry with General Mark Milley, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during his presidency.
An article had recently appeared in the New Yorker suggesting that in the final days of the presidency, General Milley had asked to be kept informed if Mr. Trump issued illegal orders.
On the tape recording, Mr. Trump reportedly referred to the Iran attack document, which he said belonged to General Milley.
There was reportedly a sound of paper rustling and laughter, with Mr Trump suggesting that the document was in front of him and that it would undermine General Milley if people knew about it.
The Iran document was not produced by General Milley, CNN reported.
An account of the meeting was later included in Mr. Meadows’ autobiography.
It describes how Mr. Trump “recalls a four-page report” that contained “the general’s own plan to attack Iran, which would involve deploying huge numbers of troops”.
Trump denies wrongdoing
The FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August and found at least 300 classified documents, including US secrets that may have come from human spies.
It was later reported that secret details about Iran’s missile program were among the files discovered.
Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing and claims he has released all documents in his possession.
He has said that a president can release information “even by thinking about it”.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, declined to comment on reports of a recording, but condemned “leaks” from the Justice Department’s investigation.
He said: “Leaks from radical partisans behind this political persecution are designed to stir up tensions and continue media harassment of President Trump and his supporters.”
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The investigation is led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is also investigating whether Mr Trump or his associates obstructed their efforts to investigate his custody of government records.
The special counsel is also investigating efforts to reverse Mr Trump’s 2020 election loss that culminated in the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
James Trusty, an attorney representing Mr. Trump, said: “When he left for Mar-a-Lago with boxes of documents that other people had packed for him and brought with him, he was the commander-in-chief.
“There is no doubt that he has the constitutional authority to be declassified as commander-in-chief.”
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