Tag: trump documents
What's Really Going On With That 'Smoking Gun' Tape Of Trump In Bedminster

What's Really Going On With That 'Smoking Gun' Tape Of Trump In Bedminster

The big story last night and all day today has been the audio tape obtained by CNN of Defendant Trump bragging about the top-secret plan to attack Iran during an interview for a book Mark Meadows was writing about his big, difficult, arduous 11 months as White House chief of staff. We already knew that Special Counsel Jack Smith had the tape, apparently obtained from either the writer and publisher for the Meadows book, or from one of the two staffers who were present during the interview.

The big deal was hearing Trump’s voice on the tape. Comparisons were made to the Watergate tapes, when we finally heard Nixon’s voice telling John Dean something like “we can do that” when Dean mentioned a fairly high figure being demanded by the Watergate burglars for their silence. The words “smoking gun” were used to describe the revelation on the tape, but they applied to Nixon’s voice, as well, because there just wasn’t anything like listening to a man of Nixon’s stature – he was president of the United States – committing a felony.

And now here was the voice of Defendant Trump talking about a top-secret plan to attack Iran with a roomful of people who were not cleared to hear anything about such a document, even that it existed at all, much less references to its content. The mere fact that what the document contained was top-secret was itself a secret. We lesser mortals aren’t supposed to know that our government has prepared plans to attack another nation – any nation, much less our sworn enemy, Iran.

And yet, according to what we already knew from the 37-count indictment of Defendant Trump, there he was, sitting out there at his golf club in New Jersey, bragging about having this top-secret document in his possession – in fact, right there in the room with him.

The big revelation from CNN was hearing the sound of Defendant Trump waving around a sheaf of papers and saying on the tape, “These are the papers!” Those words had been missing from the indictment of Defendant Trump, which had included most of the rest of the conversation during the interview. This had allowed Defendant Trump to trumpet in an interview on Fox News last week, “There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things,” Defendant Trump said on Fox. “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.”

Talk about a gotcha moment! We had been able to read it before, but now, here he was on tape, talking in his Queens-accented braggadaccio way, saying this: “Look what I found! This was Milley’s plan of attack. Read it, and just show…this is interesting,” Defendant Trump says to his rapt audience of aides and interviewers. “He said that I wanted to attack Iran, isn’t it amazing?” (The sound of papers shuffling can be heard.) “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. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff…pages long. Look,” Trump says, as more shuffling of papers can be heard. “Wait a minute. Let’s see here.” A staffer is heard laughing. “I just found. Isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is, like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look. Look at this…by the way, isn’t this incredible?”

Listening to the tape, you can hear comments attributed in the special counsel’s indictment to “STAFFER” and “WRITER” interjecting such encouragement as “wow,” and “uh-uh” and “you did.” But then we get to what politicians like to call the red meat, the real stuff, and in Watergate days, the smoking gun:

“I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said you wanted to attack Iran and…these are the papers!”

There is is! Zingo! Bam! Ka-boom! He’s got them in his hand, and he is clearly showing them to the assembled lackeys and wannabes! He continues, explaining again, in case they didn’t hear him the first time -- Defendant Trump is, if nothing else, a master of repetition, once he’s got an audience in his thrall:

“This was done by the military and given to me! Uh, I think we can probably [use it] right?”

A staffer answers hesitantly, “I don’t know, we’ll have to see. I think we’ll probably have to…”

“Declassify it. See as president, I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” says Defendant Trump.

Double Zingo!

Okay, I thought to myself. I’ll go along with the conventional wisdom that the tape, and especially hearing his voice, proves that, for want of a better phrase, we’ve got him. It is, by God, a smoking gun.

But then I looked again at the date of the Bedminster interview: The indictment tells us it took place on July 21, 2021, less than six months after Trump left the White House.

Then I began to wonder why all the stories about the audio tape begin with reporting about how upset Defendant Trump was with a book written by the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser and the New York Times’ Peter Baker and published more than a year later: The Divider: Trump in the White House. The book portrayed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley as so alarmed by the behavior of Defendant Trump after he lost the election in November 2020 that Milley began making daily morning phone calls between himself and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“Pompeo and Milley soon took to calling them the ‘land the plane’ phone calls,” Baker and Glasser wrote. “‘Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January,’ Milley told his staff. ‘This is our obligation to this nation.’ There was a problem, however. ‘Both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck. We’re in an emergency situation.’”

The book goes into paranoia among the top Pentagon brass that Defendant Trump would order a strike against Iran. The week that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was fired, just a few days after Defendant Trump lost the election, the book reported, “Milley was called to the Oval Office to present various military options for attacking Iran and encountered a disturbing performance by [Christopher] Miller, the new acting Defense Secretary…Trump kept asking for alternatives, including an attack inside Iran on its ballistic-weapons sites. Milley explained that this would be an illegal preëmptive act: ‘If you attack the mainland of Iran, you will be starting a war.’”

The book goes on to report that Trump “continued pushing for a missile strike on Iran even after that November meeting. If Trump said it once, Milley told his staff, he said it a thousand times. ‘The thing he was most worried about was Iran,’ a senior Biden adviser who spoke with Milley recalled. ‘Milley had had the experience more than once of having to walk the President off the ledge when it came to retaliating.’”

But an excerpt from the Glasser/Baker book was published on August 8, 2022, more than a year after Defendant Trump gave the Bedminster interview in which he appeared obsessed with Milley thinking that he was going to start a war with Iran.

Then there was the other book that got Defendant Trump’s ire up: Peril, by Washington Post writers Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. CNN headlined a story on the book the day it was published on September 14, 2021, titled “Worried Trump could ‘go rogue,’ Milley took secret action to protect nuclear weapons.” “Two days after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons,” CNN reported.

After the attack on the Capitol, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called Milley, sounding alarmed. “What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do?” Pelosi said to Milley, according to a transcript of the call obtained by Woodward and Costa. “And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?” Pelosi continued. “You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time.”

Milley responded, “Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything.” CNN reported that after the call with Pelosi, “Milley decided he had to act. He told his top service chiefs to watch everything ‘all the time.’ He called the director of the National Security Agency, Paul Nakasone, and told him, ‘Needles up … keep watching, scan.’ And he told then-CIA Director Gina Haspel, ‘Aggressively watch everything, 360.’”

Woodward and Costa reported that Milley “felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions.” Milley told Woodward and Costa it was the “absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility.”

So, there is a lot of stuff out there about General Mark Milley for Defendant Trump to be pissed off about – but every sentence was published well after the day the tape was made at the Bedminster golf club in July of 2021.

One thing we can be certain of is that Trump would never have given an interview to the ghost writer and publisher of a memoir by Mark Meadows if he had known back in July 2021 that Meadows had been on the phone almost daily after November 2020 with Milley and Pompeo talking about “landing the plane” on January 20, 2021, so there would be a smooth transition of power.

Nor would he have given an interview to help out his former chief of staff if he had known that Meadows would give testimony before grand juries in both Washington D.C. and Atlanta about Defendant Trump’s attempts to overthrow the election of 2020. Rolling Stone reported last week that members of Trump’s legal team have been using a rat emoji when referring to Meadows. Other reports have said that nobody close to Trump has been in touch with Meadows “for months.”

So, there are at least two questions about that interview in Bedminster: One, what was Defendant Trump doing with a top-secret document he described as a plan to attack Iran given to him by General Mark Milley? And two, why was he so exercised about Milley on that particular day, months before the Woodward/Costa book would expose the split between him and Milley, and over a year before the Glasser/Baker book would first note that Defendant Trump had asked Milley for a plan to attack Iran just days after he lost the election, and Milley had become so concerned, that he instituted the “land the plane” phone calls?

According to the tape obtained by CNN, Defendant Trump began the interview by calling unnamed people “bad” and “sick.” A staffer who was present during the interview jumps in and says they had tried a “coup” against him. Defendant Trump responds, “Like when Milley is talking about, ‘Oh you’re going to try to do a coup.’”

“No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in,” the staffer chimes in.

So the whole thing was touched off by Defendant Trump’s allegation that Milley had accused him of attempting a “coup.” And to rebut Milley, Trump launches into his detailed discussion about the top-secret plan to attack Iran that he alleges Milley gave him.

None of it adds up, especially when you consider that all of this happened before the National Archives had even begun bugging Defendant Trump for the documents and materials they believed he had removed from the White House on January 20 as he left office. And most especially when you consider that Defendant Trump had moved the top-secret document he was waving around twice – first from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, and second, from Mar a--Lago to Bedminster in May 2021 when he relocated for the summer.

There are even more questions: how many other top-secrets documents did Defendant Trump take with him that spring from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster? And why, for crying out loud? He probably didn’t know in May that Meadows would contact him in July and ask him to talk to his ghost writer and publisher. So, what was he doing with a top-secret plan to attack Iran that he could simply pull from a pile of papers on his desk and describe for his drooling crowd of suck-ups? Did he want to have his secret documents with him in in Bedminster so he could impress his golfing buddies?

Or was there more going on that we don’t yet know?

For the time being, we’ve at least got Trump’s voice committing a felony on tape, exposing some of the nation’s most sensitive national security and military secrets to a gaggle of adoring goofballs, not one of whom had so much as a “confidential” security clearance, much less the clearance needed to see or hear about a document with markings labeling it Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information – for the eyes only of the man who gave it to him, General Mark Milley, and probably a half-dozen other top Pentagon commanders.

If I were Ayatollah Whoever-the-hell-is-in-charge over in Iran, I would be rubbing my hands together with glee. The rest of us can join him at our leisure as the jaws of justice clench tighter and tighter around the ankles of Defendant Trump.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Danziger Draws

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City and Vermont. He is a long time cartoonist for The Rutland Herald and is represented by Counterpoint Syndicate. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Why Trump Should Be Very, Very Afraid Of Special Counsel Jack Smith

Why Trump Should Be Very, Very Afraid Of Special Counsel Jack Smith

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Let’s take a quick look back at the classified documents cases now afoot in the land. Back in early January, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to look into the classified documents that were found at the Biden Penn Center and in his garage at his residence in Wilmington, Delaware. The special counsel is Robert K. Hur, and he and his team have already interviewed several Biden associates about the documents, which date to his time as vice president under President Obama. All of the Biden classified documents were either turned over to the National Archives voluntarily or found by the FBI when they conducted a search of Biden’s house. The search was done without a warrant because Biden had agreed to cooperate beforehand with the FBI.

Several classified documents were also found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s house by his personal attorney. These documents were turned over voluntarily to the FBI. Then last week, the FBI found one additional classified document at Pence’s Indiana home. CNN reported that the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice have begun an investigation into how the documents ended up in Pence’s residence, who might have seen them, and whether or not national security might have been compromised by the insecure storage of the documents in a private residence. This probe by the FBI and the DOJ is not criminal in nature at this time, and Pence is cooperating with the investigation.

National security and legal experts don’t expect any charges to result from either investigation, even given the fact that a new special counsel is overseeing the Biden documents case. Biden has cooperated at all times with the FBI and the DOJ, and there is no evidence that he attempted at any time to obstruct the investigation.

That leaves us with the Trump classified documents case, a different creature altogether. As you will recall, the case resulted from Trump having taken many documents with him to Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House in 2021. When the National Archives became aware that certain documents were missing from those Trump turned over when he left office – the famous “love letter” from Korean dictator Kim Jung-un was one of them – they requested that Trump turn over to the archives any documents he had withheld either purposefully or by accident. Months went by before Trump responded in January 2022 by turning over more than 100 classified documents, along with other material.

The National Archives suspected, and the FBI developed evidence, that there were more classified documents that Trump had not turned over. The DOJ issued a subpoena, and last June, several DOJ officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago and met with Christina Bobb, a lawyer then working for Trump’s Super PAC. Thirty-some classified documents were turned over to the DOJ lawyers, along with a letter certifying that a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago had turned up no other classified documents stored there.

The DOJ developed more evidence indicating that statement wasn’t true, and went to court and got a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. In early August of last year, the FBI conducted a search of the premises at Mar-a-Lago and turned up some 11,000 documents stored there, including 115 additional classified documents that Trump had not turned over.

A court fight initiated by Trump ensued over the documents seized by the FBI. Trump lost the lawsuit and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals returned all the documents at issue, including the more than 300 classified documents, to the DOJ, where they became evidence in a continuing criminal and national security investigation into Trump’s mishandling of the documents.

That investigation, begun by Merrick Garland and the FBI, has been turned over to Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed late last year. In January, a lawyer for Trump turned over a new classified document and a folder with classified markings to the FBI. They were found at Mar-a-Lago during a search by Trump’s lawyers that also turned up a laptop and a thumb drive, onto which were copied documents that were in the box containing the classified document and folder.

And that is where things stood until this week, when it became known that two of Trump’s lawyers were subpoenaed last month to appear before one of the two grand juries hearing criminal cases involving Trump – one overseeing the documents case, and the other overseeing the investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election of 2020, including the events leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

One of the lawyers subpoenaed was Christina Bobb, who signed the certification that the “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago had not turned up any more classified documents than those turned over to the DOJ in June 2022. The other lawyer is Evan Corcoran, who Bobb told the DOJ had drafted the statement for her to sign, even though Corcoran did not sign it himself. Bobb appears to have given testimony to the grand jury in January that was acceptable to the DOJ, meaning she probably did not plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify. Because grand jury testimony is secret, there is no way to confirm this.

Corcoran, however, has turned out to be a different matter. Yesterday, lawyers for the DOJ filed a document with Judge Beryl A. Howell, the chief judge in the federal court covering the District of Columbia, seeking to invoke the “crime-fraud exception” to the attorney-client privilege which normally covers all communications between a lawyer and his or her client, in this case, Donald Trump. The “crime-fraud exception” pierces that privilege and allows prosecutors to compel the testimony of a lawyer if they believe that lawyer has been used by a client in a conspiracy to commit a crime.

The DOJ is thought to want to question Corcoran about who told him to draft the statement signed by Bobb that basically asserted that everything Trump took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, including classified documents, had been turned over in response to the DOJ subpoena. That statement was a lie, as the subsequent search of Mar-a-Lago proved.

What’s going on here? Well, the DOJ is continuing its investigation into whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice, in this case, by obstructing the investigation into his handling of the classified and non-classified documents he stored at Mar-a-Lago. The DOJ notoriously does not like it when the subject of one of its investigations tries to get others to lie for him or otherwise engage in covering up a crime.

Corcoran is in very hot water here. If he is forced to testify and he tells the grand jury that Donald Trump told him to draft the June statement and what it should say, then the DOJ has prima facie evidence that Trump obstructed justice.

One of the legal eagles interviewed on MSNBC on Tuesday night said that the DOJ – comprised of lawyers – is very reluctant to come between a lawyer and his or her client, and going for a “crime-fraud exception” to attorney-client privilege is a last resort they will take only when all other avenues of obtaining information have been stymied by a target of an investigation. Usually, the expert told MSNBC, it indicates that the DOJ is in the final stages of presenting evidence to a grand jury before asking the grand jury to issue an indictment.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has shown exactly zero reluctance to go after Donald Trump for the crimes he is suspected of having committed. That Trump mishandled national security information by storing classified documents in a non-secure facility – the Mar-a-Lago store room, his office, and, it now turns out, his bedroom at his resort, is not even in question. That he sought to delay the investigation into his handling of classified documents was established when he filed his spurious lawsuit that temporarily kept the DOJ from using the documents in their investigation.

Now the question is: Did Donald Trump use his attorneys and others in illegally obstructing the DOJ investigation? It’s pretty clear that Jack Smith is close to getting the answer to that question, and when he does, look for an indictment of Trump to soon follow.

Oh! This just in! It was revealed on Monday that the Special Counsel investigation has been broadened to include looking into Trump’s Super PAC, the Save America PAC, and how it handled the millions of dollars Trump raised after he began his allegations that the election of 2020 had been “stolen” from him. According to the New York Times, Smith’s office has subpoenaed and interviewed what they call “a vast array of Trump vendors,” asking them about how money was paid to vendors and whether some of the vendors subcontracted their services to other vendors. What the DOJ wants to know is “if the payments were for genuine services rendered,” which can indicate only one thing: They suspect that Trump was diverting some of the Super PAC money to himself or his family through phony invoices from phony front-companies with the end result that the money ended up in Trump’s pockets.

Given a choice of whether to tell the truth or lie, Trump will lie every time. Given the choice of whether to pay a bill or stiff someone, Trump will stiff them every time. Given the choice of whether to raise several tens of millions of dollars for a legal purpose and then let it sit there without finding its way into his pockets, Trump will take the money every time.

Folks, Donald Trump is going to be indicted. Bank on it.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Trump Attorney Offers Bizarre Excuse For Keeping 'Classified' Folder

Trump Attorney Offers Bizarre Excuse For Keeping 'Classified' Folder

A Trump attorney has described public discourse on a recently discovered “classified” folder at Mar-a-Lago as much ado over nothing — because Trump used the folder only to block a light that kept him up at night.

“He has one of those landline telephones next to his bed, and it has a blue light on it, and it keeps him up at night. So he took the manilla folder and put it over so it would keep the light down so he could sleep at night,” Trump lawyer Timothy Parlatore said in a CNN Interview on Sunday.

Parlatore quipped to the CNN anchor, Paula Reid, that the folder — labeled “classified evening summary” and found in Trump’s bedroom — was “one of the more humorous aspects of this whole thing” and not classified despite its label containing the word.

"It is not a classification marking. It's not anything that is controlled in any way. There's nothing illegal about it. There's nothing in it,” Parlatore said.

The claim was the latest in a Rolodex of bizarre explanations offered by Trump allies in defense of the ex-commander-in–chief from whom the Justice Department has, for months, sought to retrieve a horde of illegally kept and inadequately stored classified documents.

Parlatore, who represents Trump in the special counsel probe into the ex-president’s handling of classified documents, said that the Justice Department “went crazy” when it learned about the folder.

“When DOJ found out about it, they went crazy. They gave me a subpoena to say, ‘give us over this empty folder that means nothing.’ Everything we have done as part of the search has been in the spirit of full cooperation and compliance,” he told Reid.

“Now the president has to find a different way to keep the blue light out of his eyes,” he added.

When Reid asked Parlatore why classified material kept turning up in Trump’s possession, the attorney suggested his client was as much a victim of the White House’s improper “procedures for handling classified information” as President Biden and ex-Vice President Mike Pence.

“What has happened here that you’ve seen here and also in the Biden and Pence investigations is that the White House does not have proper procedures for handling classified information.

“And these documents, when they get backed up and sent out when people leave office, they do keep showing up, if you will,” he said.


The folder was one of several items turned over to federal investigators between December and January, over four months after the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home and retrieved reams of secret government records, over a hundred of which were marked classified.

Parlatore insisted Trump’s legal team had mentioned the folder in its report to the DOJ and had alerted the agency to its presence. He also accused the DOJ of leaking the handover to the press.

“These were not turned over last week, although, you know, the DOJ leaked it last week. This was turned over back in December. And so, we have gone through, we’ve tried to work with the DOJ. We’ve tried to do searches of all the relevant places. And anytime we’ve found anything, we’ve immediately turned it over,” he said.

From the onset, Trump and his allies have tried to downplay the findings as inconsequential with myriad excuses, from claiming that Trump had declassified the documents as president to falsely accusing Biden of weaponizing federal agencies against political opponents.

ABC News and CNN reported over the weekend that the formerly undisclosed tranche of handovers included a laptop onto which a Trump aide had copied several document pages with classified markings using a thumb drive.

The aide, several outlets reported, works for Trump’s Save America political action committee, which is under investigation by a federal grand jury looking into the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“She was working as an aide to the president. And this is a box that had all of his daily schedules from his time in office. And she scanned all of those as part of, you know, being available for future speeches or biographies or things like that,” Parlatore said of the aide.

“And after we did the search in December and we found that within this box of thousands that there were a couple of pages that had a little marking at the bottom, which we turned over,” he continued.

“After that, we found out that she had scanned the box so that it would be digitized. She had no idea that there were any classification markings on anything. And as soon as we found out about that, we called up DOJ to let them know. And immediately provided them access to it,” he concluded.

A Trump spokesperson has since branded the classified documents probe “a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against President Trump, concocted to try and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House," per ABC News.

"Just like all the other fake hoaxes thrown at President Trump, this corrupt effort will also fail," the spokesperson wrote.