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Special counsel has obtained a tape of Trump discussing a classified document he kept after leaving office

Trump acknowledged on the tape recording, made in 2021, that the planning document he took was related to Iran and that it was classified, a source told NBC News.
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WASHINGTON — Special counsel Jack Smith's office has obtained a recording of former President Donald Trump discussing a classified planning document that he had taken from his time at the White House, a source directly familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The planning document Trump kept was related to Iran, the source said, and the former president acknowledged on the tape that it was classified.

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The recording was made in July 2021 during a meeting at Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, that included people who were helping former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows write his memoir, the source said. The tape was played during testimony provided to the grand jury that has been investigating Trump's handling of classified documents, the source added.

Former President Donald Trump at the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., on May 25, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump at the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., on May 25.Rob Carr / Getty Images

The evidence appears to undercut Trump’s claim that he declassified all the government documents that came into his possession after he left the White House, and it would be important in any effort by prosecutors to prove that Trump knew he possessed classified information.

News that federal officials had obtained the audio recording was first reported by CNN. NBC News has not heard the recording.

The special counsel's investigation into Trump, which focuses on his alleged mishandling of more than 100 classified documents that were discovered at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last year, appears to be approaching an end.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, rebuffing allegations that he mishandled classified documents. He claimed last year that he can declassify documents “by thinking about it.” 

FBI agents said in a redacted affidavit last year that they found 184 unique documents that had classification markings in the 15 boxes that Trump returned to the National Archives in January.

The affidavit stated that 25 documents were marked as “TOP SECRET,” 67 documents marked as “confidential” and 92 marked “secret.”

That then led to the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents who recovered a trove of top secret and other highly classified documents, court documents unsealed by a federal judge said.

During that search, which Trump characterized as a “raid,” federal agents removed 11 additional sets of classified documents, including some that were labeled secret and top secret.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as the special counsel in November, saying that the move was in the public’s interest “based on recent developments, including Trump’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the current president’s intention to be a candidate in the next election.”