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Trump, Iran and the ‘Highly Confidential’ Document

In an interview with Fox News, former President Donald Trump denied showing a classified plan of a U.S. attack on Iran when he met in July 2021 with four people who lacked security clearances — contrary to an audio transcript of Trump contained in the 37-count federal indictment against him.

Trump told Fox News anchor Bret Baier that he “didn’t have a document, per se,” and suggested that instead he showed his guests copies of newspaper and magazine articles. “Bret, there was no document,” Trump said in an interview that aired June 19.

The indictment says that Trump met on July 21, 2021, at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with “a writer and a publisher in connection with a then-forthcoming book,” referring to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ book, “The Chief’s Chief.” Two Trump staffers were also there. Six days before the meeting, Susan Glasser of the New Yorker published a story that detailed how Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was concerned Trump might attack Iran in the final days of his presidency.

At the meeting in New Jersey, Trump told his guests that Milley wanted to attack Iran and, in fact, presented him with an attack plan, the audio transcript shows.

“Look. This was him. They presented me this—this is off the record, but—they presented me this,” Trump said at the meeting. “This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.” The writer present at the meeting responded: “Wow.”

Here we will detail what the indictment says about Trump’s July 2021 meeting and what the former president says about the incident. We also will provide what Meadows’ book briefly says about Milley’s “own plan to attack Iran.” (For more on Trump’s indictment, see “Q&A on Trump’s Federal Indictment.”)

What the Indictment Says

The indictment contains the transcript of an audiotape of the July 2021 meeting. Trump is heard discussing what he says is a “highly confidential” “plan of attack” that is “still a secret.”

Update, June 27: CNN obtained a copy of the audio that verifies the transcript in the indictment.

Indictment, United States v. Trump: Upon greeting the writer, publisher, and his two staff members, TRUMP stated, “Look what I found, this was [the Senior Military Official’s] plan of attack, read it and just show … it’s interesting.” Later in the interview, TRUMP engaged in the following exchange:

Trump: Well, with [the Senior Military Official]—uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack [Country A]. Isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. 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.

Writer: Wow.

Trump: We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff—pages long, look.

Staffer: Mm.

Trump: Wait a minute, let’s see here.

Staffer: [Laughter] Yeah.

Trump: I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know.

Staffer: Mm-hm.

Trump: Except it is like, highly confidential.

Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter]

Trump: Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack, and —


Trump: By the way. Isn’t that incredible?

Staffer: Yeah.

Trump: I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said, “he wanted to attack [Country A], and what …”

Staffer: You did.

Trump: This was done by the military and given to me. Uh, I think we can probably, right?

Staffer: I don’t know, we’ll, we’ll have to see. Yeah, we’ll have to try to—

Trump: Declassify it.

Staffer: — figure out a — yeah.

Trump: See as president I could have declassified it.

Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter]

Trump: Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret

Staffer: Yeah. [Laughter] Now we have a problem.

Trump: Isn’t that interesting.

The Fox News Interview

On his show “Special Report with Bret Baier,” the Fox News host pressed the president on why he had “very sensitive national security defense documents like the war plans for a strike on Iran.”

Specifically, Baier asked Trump about the audio transcript of the July 2021 meeting.

Baier: But according to the indictment, you were here at Bedminster on July 21, 2021, after you’re no longer president, and you were recorded saying that you had a document detailing a plan of attack on another country that was prepared by the U.S. military for you when you were president. The Iran attack plan. You remember that?

Trump: Ready?

Baier: You were recorded.

Trump: It wasn’t a document.

Baier: OK.

Trump: I had lots of paper. I had copies of newspaper articles. I had copies of magazines. I had copies of everything.

Baier: I know it. This is specifically a quote. You’re quoted on the recording saying, the document was secret, adding that you could have declassified it while you were president, but quote, “Now I can’t, you know, this is still secret. Highly confidential.”

And the indictment says, the recording and the testimony from people in the room saying you showed it to people there that day. So, you say on this on tape.

Trump: I didn’t show it. It says just the opposite. … Bret, there was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else, talking about Iran and other things. 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.

Baier: I’m just saying what the indictment says.

Trump later told Baier, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a document from Milley.”

‘The Chief’s Chief’

Meadows’ book is a memoir of his time as Trump’s chief of staff. In the prologue of the book, Meadows criticizes Milley — who is described as one of several “aggrieved former officials” — and includes the version of events that Trump described at the taped meeting in July 2021.

The Chief’s Chief”: In one article in The New Yorker, [Milley] is quoted as saying that President Trump was going to strike Iran as a way to maintain his grip on power as soon as he could — something that, conveniently, made him a hero to liberals and Trump haters everywhere, just in time for him to hit the speaking circuit with Generals [James] Mattis, [H.R.] McMaster, [Stanley] McChrystal, and the rest of the McLosers who’ve found that there’s money to be made by dumping on President Trump in public.

The president recalls a four-page report typed up by Mark Milley himself. It contained the general’s own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during the presidency. President Trump denied those requests every time.

Trump told Baier, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a document from Milley.” But the evidence presented in the indictment and the brief mention in Meadows’ book suggest otherwise.

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