EXCLUSIVE: Trump lawyers have not found secret document that mentioned former president on tape following subpoena

Charlie Neighborkall/AP

Prosecutors sued Trump after he was caught on tape debating Trump over recordings related to a classified Iran dossier.


Donald Trump’s lawyers handed over the materials in mid-March in response to a federal subpoena related to a classified US military document. The former president narrated on the tape in 2021, but could not find the document, two sources told CNN.

Prosecutors issued the subpoena shortly after a Trump aide was asked before a federal grand jury about an audio recording of a July 2021 meeting at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. In the recording, Trump admitted that he had a secret Pentagon document on a possible attack on Iran.

The sources said they sought “any and all” documents and materials related to Trump’s joint chiefs and Iran’s president, Mark Milley, including lawyers, maps or invasion plans. A similar subpoena was sent to someone who attended the meeting, another source told CNN.

Sources say prosecutors made it clear to Trump’s attorneys after issuing the subpoena that they specifically wanted the Iran dossier and any material that referred to classified information, such as meeting notes, audio recordings or copies of the document, where Trump spoke. Owned by Trump.

Trump’s team’s failure to produce the document underscores the challenges the government has faced in trying to retrieve classified material Trump took with him when he left the White House and in understanding the movement of government records held by Trump.

During the Justice Department’s investigation, prosecutors expressed suspicion that all the classified documents had been returned. The federal government recovered dozens of classified documents from Trump at various locations throughout 2022.

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The special counsel’s office complained to a federal judge late last year that even after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago last August, it was unable to confirm that Trump had turned over all the classified identification documents in his possession, CNN previously reported.

The dispute led to several sealed court proceedings where prosecutors tried to hold Trump in contempt, but the judge refused at the time, and Trump’s team appointed two people to search his assets.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

It’s unclear whether the government already has a copy of the Iran document from boxes returned to the National Archives by Trump’s legal team last year or was recovered in a subsequent FBI search.

Trump’s lawyers have said that Trump and his staff did not pre-review the contents of the boxes returned to the former presidential archives and were not informed of what documents were recovered from Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s lawyers won’t get full access to the classified documents seized in the FBI search, and the boxes returned to the Trump archives in January 2022 were only seen with markers instead of the classified documents that were returned in those boxes. .

The Trump memo on the tape was made before Milley was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CNN was told, after Milley was interviewed by investigators. The sources could not say whether Trump had the document in question when he discussed it at the meeting in 2021 or simply referred to it.

The recording, first reported by CNN, is now in the hands of special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump. Smith has focused on the meeting in recent months as part of an annual criminal investigation into the former president’s handling of national security secrets.

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The audio of Trump admitting he has a classified document undercuts Trump’s repeated claims that it described everything he took from the White House when he left office.

Trump on Thursday said he knew nothing about the 2021 summer meeting and again called the Justice Department investigation a “witch hunt” and an attempt to meddle in the 2024 presidential election.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall. “I have the right to be classified as president.”

Trump aides and two people working on a biography of Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, attended the Bedminster meeting with Trump. That autobiography includes an account of what appears to be the same meeting, where Trump recalls a statement “typed” by Milley that contained a plan to attack Iran.

The subpoenas were immediately issued after Trump aide Marco Martin, who attended the meeting, appeared before a grand jury in Smith’s investigation and was asked about it. That’s when Trump’s legal team discovered the records were with prosecutors.

According to a source, the Justice Department had access to a version of the record before Martin’s grand jury appearance in March. Martin’s lawyer declined to comment.

After receiving the subpoena from Trump, sources said his legal team spoke with aides and gathered materials to respond to the subpoena, including transcripts of recordings made by Trump aides and other documents referring to Milli or Iran.

The legal team has been unable to locate the document referenced in the Trump tape, the sources said, and it’s unclear if it was ever returned to the government or where it is now.

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Trump attorney Jim Trusty declined to say on CNN this week whether the document was ever returned to the National Archives.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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