Donald Trump's legal problems just keep getting worse. Special counsel Jack Smith is a real pitbull. He just keeps at it and won't let go. He's also pretty good at keeping out of the news, but once in a while something leaks. Yesterday CNN got a scoop that could impact the Mar-a-Lago documents case. In July 2021, 6 months after Trump left office, Trump held a meeting at his Bedminster, NJ, golf club with multiple people in conjunction with Mark Meadows' memoir. One of them made an audio recording of it, which Smith now has. At the meeting, Trump talks about a classified document that relates to how the U.S. military might strike Iran if it came to that. In the recording, Trump says things that suggest that he knew the document was secret and he had not declassified it.
To be clear, this meeting and recording are not directly related to the time the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in 2022 and found classified documents. However, it does affect Trump's statement that he declassified everything he took from the White House. If it turns out that it can be proven (by a recording) that Trump did not declassify everything he took from the White House and knew that, there goes his defense that everything at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified. Additionally, there is an official protocol for declassifying documents and in some cases Trump used it, so he knew exactly how declassification worked. This will make it very difficult to later argue that the president can declassify a document by just saying "Declassified, declassified, declassified" and then clicking his heels together three times. This is important because the law says that it is a crime to intentionally possess a classified document at an unauthorized facility and the recording gives yet more evidence that Trump knew exactly what he was doing, that is, he had intent.
Over the course of time, Trump has given a whole range of explanations of how classified documents ended up at Mar-a-Lago. He has said that staffers put them in cartons of his souvenirs without his knowledge when he left the White House. He has said that he had a standing order to declassify anything he took with him. He has said presidents can telepathically declassify documents. It's all over the map. Occam's razor and now a recording suggest that these are all bogus and that he took documents he had no right to intentionally and was fully aware of it. He just thought he could get away with it.
In an interview with CNN last night, one of Trump's lawyers, James Trusty, made a statement that indicates that he is a good lawyer. He said: "When he [Trump] left for Mar-a-Lago with boxes of documents that other people packed for him that he brought, he was the commander in chief. There is no doubt that he has the constitutional authority as commander in chief to declassify." All this is certainly true but in no way addresses the issue of whether Trump actually did declassify the documents he took home with him, only that he could have. "Could have" is not the same as "did" and Trusty understands that perfectly and spoke accordingly to cover his own a**.
How important is this new revelation? We'll give it a four "units" because we believe the Mar-a-Lago documents case is going to be easier to prove in court than the insurrection case and the recording may establish the intent required to make possession a crime. (V)