Home ‘This is still a secret’: Trump trying to spin smoking gun audio as exoneration
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‘This is still a secret’: Trump trying to spin smoking gun audio as exoneration

Chris Graham
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Donald Trump is, this morning, trying to spin audio of him bragging to people at his New Jersey golf club about having classified plans prepared by the military for a possible attack of Iran as somehow exonerating him.

“The Deranged Special Prosecutor, Jack 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 wrote in a message on his flailing social-media app, Truth Social, on Tuesday, making you wonder, given how he likes to get out in front of bad news, if it was him who leaked the audio.

You have to wonder that because the rest of us know what this audio is: a smoking gun.

“What has been said to me by several people is that this tape is the most damning piece of evidence that they know of existing in this case,” said Maggie Haberman, the New York Times reporter who has the reputation of being the Trump whisperer, in an interview on CNN Monday night.

Oh, yeah. This is damning.

Trump is heard saying on the recording describing a multi-page document that he says is about U.S. military plans for an attack on Iran.

What he was doing, from a listen to the audio, which was first reported on by CNN, was making the case, to random people at his golf club, was an effort at a defense of contentions made by Gen. Mark Milley, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump, that Trump, in his final days as president, had wanted to attack Iran as an approach to try to take the heat off him following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“With Milley, let me see that. I’ll show you an example,” Trump said in the recording. “He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look,” he said, as you can hear papers shuffling.

“This was him. They presented me this. This is off the record, but they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him,” Trump said next, ostensibly referring to Milley as “him.”

“This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is, like, highly confidential, secret,” Trump said, then added, “This is secret information. But look, look at this,” he said, as laughter could be heard in the background.

“Hillary would print that out all the time, you know,” a woman that CNN identified as a Trump staffer said, to which Trump replied, “No, she’d send it to Anthony Weiner. The pervert.”

“These are the papers. This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump said next, before adding, “See, as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

This approach by Trump is aimed at undercutting a key piece of evidence in the case against him by getting it out into the public domain, claiming it’s out there because of a leak from the Department of Justice, to set up a legal argument that it shouldn’t be admissible in court.

In this, the approach is no different than Trump, back when he was just an aspiring real-estate mogul, calling reporters claiming to be John Barron, leaking gossip about whoever it was that he was having sex with at the time, to make sure that he kept his name on the front pages of the New York papers.

He did the same, you remember, when his Mar-a-Lago golf club was searched by the FBI last year, getting out in front of the story by claiming that the FBI had raided Mar-a-Lago, setting the media tone for the coverage of the investigation thereafter.

It’s one thing to play the media; another thing entirely to play the legal system.

How much this is a smoking gun legally: even Ari Fleischer, the former George W. Bush White House press secretary, appearing Monday night on Trump sycophant Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show, can’t talk around it to make Trump look good.

“As somebody who used to routinely handle classified information, I do have to say, that is not how you’re supposed to handle it,” Fleischer said. “If it is a secret, top secret, whatever the classification is of this document, you may not show it to anybody who doesn’t have such a clearance. It may not leave a SCIF. It can’t be in a place like Mar-a-Lago, which was not a SCIF.

“So, on this, I’m not sympathetic,” Fleischer said. “I’ve always said that he shouldn’t have been indicted over this. I think that was overreach, and it went too far, but I also think that the president went too far in taking classified documents. He should’ve returned them all when the government said they wanted them back.”

One more sign of this being a smoking gun: Steve Doocy, one of the co-hosts of Trump’s favorite morning-news show, “Fox & Friends,” is with the rest of us in thinking Trump is behind the leak of the audio.

“You know what? If Trump thinks it’s an exoneration of him, perhaps somebody on his side actually did the leaking to CNN and Maggie Haberman,” Doocy said.

“That makes sense,” replied Brian Kilmeade, a second “Fox & Friends” co-host.

“It does, actually,” Doocy said, adding, “he’s admitting he’s got classified documents.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].