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CNN airs Trump's leaked 2021 conversation about Gen. Mark Milley's alleged 'plan of attack'

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

CNN has published a two-minute audio recording reportedly taken during a 2021 meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, wherein former President Donald Trump can be heard discussing the contents of what is alleged in special counsel Jack Smith's indictment to have been a "plan of attack" for Iran.

The liberal network, which first aired the audio on "Anderson Cooper 360," did not specify who or what entity leaked the audio but noted that special counsel Jack Smith's office has declined to comment.

Trump has called the leak "illegal" and insinuated that Smith is colluding with the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What's in the recording?

The New York Post reported that in the recording, Trump is speaking to his communications aide Margo Martin and others who were helping to pen an autobiography of Mark Meadows, the former president's last White House chief of staff.

Trump, who appears to have been under the impression the conversation was "off the record," indicated that contrary to the suggestion of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had not wanted to attack Iran in his final months in office. Rather, citing a document "pages long," Trump intimated that Milley and the Department of Defense had attempted to goad him into another Middle Eastern conflict.

This topic appears to have been raised in response to the June 2021 preview of Peter Baker's and Susan Glasser's book "The Divider: Trump in the White House," wherein Milley is presented as having sung a different tune regarding Iran.

The Hill and other publications reported just days prior to Trump's Bedminster conversation that, according to this book, Milley had "issued a stark warning to former President Trump about a possible strike against Iran in the final months of his presidency, telling him ... 'If you do this, you're gonna have a f***ing war.'"

The book further suggested that Milley had wondered aloud in another instance without Trump present about "why they were so intent on [attacking] the country," to which former Vice President Mike Pence allegedly replied, "Because they are evil."

Contrary to the suggestion that Milley was dovish on Iran, Trump can be heard shuffling a stack of papers, then saying, "Well, with Milley — let me see that. I’ll show you an example. ... 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. This was him. They presented me this."

Stressing that "this is off the record," Trump continues, saying, "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."

The former president added, "This totally wins my case, you know. Except that it is like highly confidential, secret, this is secret information."

A female staffer on the recording replies, "Hillary would print that out all the time, you know. Her private emails," referring to failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, into whom an investigation was quashed by the FBI.

Trump responds, "No, she’d send it to Anthony Weiner," adding that the disgraced former Democratic congressman and Hillary Clinton acolyte is a "pervert."

Prior to the conclusion of the recording, Trump speaks once more to the alleged Iran attack plan, saying, "See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know."

What's the significance?

A redacted transcript of this recording was included in Smith's indictment against Trump.

The indictment notes that in July 2021, "at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey ... during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, none of whom possessed a security clearance, TRUMP showed and described a 'plan of attack' that TRUMP said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official. TRUMP told the individuals that the plan was 'highly confidential' and 'secret.' TRUMP also said, 'as president I could have declassified it,' and, 'Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.'"

The prosecution will cite this recording as confirmation that the former president held onto highly classified government documents. Without a visual component, the former president may still have some plausible deniability.

Trump told Fox News' Brett Baier last week, "There was no document," reported the New York Times.

"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," said Trump.

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung stressed in a statement, "The audio tape provides context proving, once again, that President Trump did nothing wrong at all. ... The President is speaking rhetorically and also quite humorously about a very perverted individual, Anthony Weiner, who was deep inside the corrupt Clinton campaign," reported Axios.

"The media and the Trump-haters once again were all too willing to take the bait, falling for another Democrat-DOJ hoax, hook, line, and sinker," added the Trump spokesman.

Trump took to Truth Social Monday evening, writing, "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. This continuing Witch Hunt is another ELECTION INTERFERENCE Scam. They are cheaters and thugs!"

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