CNN Hypes Trump Probe Audio, But They’ve Never Listened to It

June 1st, 2023 6:45 PM

In yet another example of leftist inflation of anti-Trump propaganda, CNN legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid appeared at the beginning of all three hours of Thursday’s CNN This Morning to discuss her recent “dogged reporting” on the newly discovered audio recording that had been taken of former President Trump. Reid made many outrageous claims about the content of this recording, despite her own admission that they “had not heard this tape,” and her refusal to specify which “sources” she was drawing her information from.

According to Reid, this audio recording supposedly contained an admission on Trump’s part of having “at least one classified document, a Pentagon memo describing a possible attack on Iran.” He also apparently was recorded “acknowledging the limits of his ability to declassify material after leaving office,” which Reid hyperbolically claimed contradicted “every public defense he and his attorneys have provided”:

But most importantly for investigators, on this recording, Trump is heard acknowledging the limits of his ability to declassify materials once he was out of the White House which, of course, undercuts every public defense he and his attorneys have provided for why he was still in possession of some of the nation's most sensitive secrets.

A bold claim indeed.



In addition, at the beginning of each hour of the show, both anchor Poppy Harlow and Reid begrudgingly admitted that “CNN has not listened to the recording.” But they were both quick to attribute their information to “multiple sources,” who they refused to identify.

In fact, of the 12 instances over the three hours that Harlow and Reid mentioned these “sources,” only two of them traced the sources back vaguely. One of these instances mentioned a source “who have [heard]” the recording, and the other mentioned “sources familiar to the investigation” of the document.

In each hour, Reid grew stronger and more confident in her claims and accusations, going from claiming that “Trump makes it clear that he is still in possession of at least one classified document from the Pentagon,” to claiming that the investigators heard “Trump in his own words confess that he has a classified document…”

Reid also scoffingly denied Trump Attorney Jim Trusty’s statement that the information came from leaks, responding to this claim in the second and third hours after the clip of the statement was played. During the third hour, she even seemed to roll her eyes after the clip was done playing before she responded with her impassioned claim that it “was not the result of a leak, it was a result of dogged reporting by our entire team” of five all-female reporters.

But a leak was the proper way to describe it. They obtained information that was privy to only those conducting the investigation. Even if they got it from a third party who knew someone on the investigation team, it still constituted a leak. Much like when fired FBI Director James Comey gave his personal notes to his buddy to leak the press.

CNN’s biased reporting on the leaked audio was sponsored by Kia. Their contact information is linked.

Transcript of the segments below (Click "expand"):

CNN This Morning


6:02 AM


POPPY HARLOW: Sources tell us there is a tape, an audio recording of former President Donald Trump admitting that he held onto a classified Pentagon document and suggesting he wants to share that information, but he's limited by his post-presidency ability to declassify records. So there's a whole lot there.

CNN has not listened to the recording, but Special Counsel Jack Smith has it in his possession. And sources describe it as a, quote, “important piece of evidence in the possible case–possible charges against Trump.”

Here's what there is. It undercuts his argument that he declassified everything, and it shows that he knew he wasn't supposed to share sensitive information with others. We are told the recording is about two minutes long from July of 2021, and in it, Trump talks about a document involving a potential attack on Iran.

So, Abby Phillip asked Trump Attorney Jim Trusty about this last night. He deflected.


ABBY PHILLIP: Did you know that this tape existed? And are there others?

ATTORNEY JIM TRUSTY: I am not gonna try a case based on the government leaks.


HARLOW: CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid helped break this story. Good morning to you. So, walk us through what is in those two minutes.

PAULA REID: So, let's set the scene here. This was a meeting that occurred at Trump's Bedminster golf club in the summer of 2021. And in d—among the people in attendance were several Trump aides and two people working on an autobiography of former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. Meadows was not in attendance at this meeting, but during this time, Trump was in the habit of having his aides record conversations with journalists, writers, anyone working on a book. So he was aware that he was being recorded.

And while we have not heard this tape, multiple sources have described it to us, and they say that on this recording, Trump makes it clear that he is still in possession of at least one classified document from the Pentagon describing a possible attack on Iran.

Now, we're told that you can hear paper rustling, as if he is waving some sort of document. But it’s unclear if it's the document he is referring to or something else for theatrical effect.

ERICA HILL: And Paula, this is really significant… I would say for two reasons. Number one, because we're talking about a recording, not simply witness testimony.

REID: Yeah.

HILL: But also because of what it shows, based on the other public comments that have been made by the former President and his legal team.

REID: That's exactly right, Erica. Over the past year, he and his attorneys, they've given various, at times conflicting, explanations for why he did not intentionally retain this sensitive information.

They've said that he had a standing declassification order. So anything that left the Oval Office was automatically declassified. He told Fox News that he declassified things just by thinking about doing so. But his lawyers have also told Congress that he was only in possession of these materials because it was so chaotic at the end of the administration, and he wasn't aware. But this recording, it really shows that none of those statements are—are true. And this also exposes the true legal jeopardy that the former president is facing.

Also important to note that most of the reporting up until now has focused on classified materials down in Florida, at Mar-a-Lago. But here in this recording, reveals that at least one classified document was up in New Jersey. Now, Trump's attorneys searched Bedminster late last year. They didn't find anything. But again, raises new questions. How did that document get there? And where did it go?

HARLOW: So many questions. Really phenomenal reporting, Paula. Thank you.


7:01 AM

HARLOW: Sources tell CNN federal prosecutors have obtained recording of former President Donald Trump acknowledging he held onto a classified document about a potential attack on Iran after he left the White House. The recording is from a meeting Trump had with two biographers of his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. This happened at his Bedminster Golf Club in July of 2021. CNN has not been able to listen to the recording, but multiple sources who have describe its contents to us. And they say in it, Trump is discussing a document about a potential plan to attack Iran. Papers can be heard ruffling on the recording. It's unclear if Trump actually showed anyone in the room the document in question.

The special counsel, Jack Smith, who is leading the Justice Department investigation into Trump, has focused on the meeting as part of the criminal probe into Trump's handling of national security secrets. And prosecutors have questioned multiple witnesses before the grand jury about this recording and document. According to sources familiar with the investigation, the recording indicates Trump understood that he retained classified material after leaving the White House despite his public claims otherwise.


DONALD TRUMP: I have no classified documents. And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.


If you're the President of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified even by thinking about it.


HILL: And Trump was reportedly outraged by a report in The New Yorker that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, was concerned Trump might set in motion a full scale conflict that was not justified with Iran after he lost that 2020 presidential election.

The episode has generated enough interest for investigators to question Milley, who is, of course, one of the highest ranking Trump-era national security officials, was questioned about the incident. Milley's spokesperson declined to comment to CNN. Trump's attorney deflected when asked about this new information.


TRUSTY: The President, under the Presidential Records Act, has unfettered authority to do what he wants with documents that he's taken from the White House while president. [Transition] I am not going to sit here and dignify leaks that are incomplete, that are unfair, and that are dishonest. This is a leak campaign.


HARLOW: Let's bring in CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent, one of the reporters who broke this story, Paula Reid, also joining us this morning, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, Senior Correspondent for Time Charlotte Alter, and former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman. Good morning to you all.

Paula, first, walk us through your reporting.

REID: Well, first, I want to respond to the suggestion that this was the result of a leak. It was not. I mean, this was dogged reporting done by our colleague, Katelyn Polantz with Kaitlan Collins, myself and our colleagues Sara Murray and Kristen Holmes. It's taken us quite some time to gather this information.

And what we've learned is that this was a meeting at Trump's Bedminster Golf Club in 2021. And in attendance, among the people in attendance, a few Trump aides and two people working on an autobiography of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Now, that is significant because even though Meadows wasn't there at this time, Trump was in the habit of recording conversations with journalists, writers, anyone working on a book. So, he knew that he was being taped.

And while we have not heard this recording, multiple sources tell us that on this recording, not only does the former president reveal that he is still in possession of at least one classified document, a Pentagon memo describing a possible attack on Iran. But he also suggests that he would like to share this, but he acknowledges that there are limits on his power to declassify once he's out of the White House. And that, as you noted, that undercuts everything he and his attorneys have argued publicly about why he was not intentionally keeping some of the nation's most sensitive secrets.

HILL: There’s so much in there…


8:02 AM

HARLOW: Sources tell us there is a tape of former President Donald Trump admitting he held on to a classified document from the Pentagon, and suggesting he wants to share the information but that he is limited by his post-presidency ability to declassify records. CNN has not listened to the recording but Special Counsel Jack Smith has it, and sources describe it as an important piece of evidence in the possible case against Trump. 

Here’s why: it undercuts his argument that he just declassified everything and it shows he knew he wasn't supposed to share sensitive information with others. We are told the recording is about two minutes long, it’s from July, 2021, and in it, Trump talks about a document involving a potential attack on Iran. CNN senior legal affairs consultant, Paula Reid, helped break this story. She has all her reporting on it. Why is this so significant? 

REID: It's so incredibly significant to the special counsel investigation because investigators can hear Trump in his own words confess that he has a classified document at his golf club in mar—in Bedminster, New Jersey, and then he also acknowledges that there are limits to his power to declassify once he left the White House. And those statements undercut every public defense he and his lawyers have ever given. 

[Cuts to video]

Federal prosecutors have obtained a recording of former President Donald Trump acknowledging he held on to a classified document about a potential attack on Iran after he left the White House, according to multiple sources. The recording is of a meeting at Trump's Bedminster golf course in July 2021. Among those in attendance were Trump aides and two people working on an autobiography of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Meadows was not in attendance, but at this time Trump was having aides record conversations with writers and journalists, so he was aware he was being taped.

CNN has not listened to the recording, but multiple sources have described it and say it indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House despite what he has said publicly. 

TRUMP: I have no classified documents. They become automatically declassified when I took them. 

If you are the president of the United States you can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it.

REID: Sources say he can also be heard acknowledging the limits of his ability to declassify material after leaving office. 

The remarks appear to be in response to this New Yorker article published days before the meeting, claiming that the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Mark Milley, was concerned “Trump might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified” with Iran. Trump appeared to be angered by this report and said he had in his possession a document that showed Milley's plan to attack. 

CNN is told that the document was not produced by Milley. His spokesman declined to comment to CNN. It is unclear if Trump actually showed the document during the recording. Trump's former national security advisor says he absolutely should not have had that document. 

JOHN BOLTON: I have very little faith in Donald Trump's credibility. He could have had a rolled up carry-out menu in his hand waving it around saying it was an Iran draft war plan. 

REID: The recording is a key piece of evidence for Special Counsel Jack Smith. His investigators have questioned witnesses about it, including General Milley himself. Trump's attorney, Jim Trusty, was asked multiple times whether there was any evidence that Trump had declassified this document. He would not answer. 

TRUSTY: The president, under the Presidential Records Act, has unfettered authority to do what he wants with documents that he has taken from the White House while president. [Transition] I am not going to sit here and dignify leaks that are incomplete, that are unfair, and that are dishonest. This is a leak campaign. 

REID: He also would not say how this document wound up in Bedminster. 

TRUSTY: I am not going to try the case that's being set up by leaks that I don't believe are accurate. 

KAITLAN COLLINS: How did—has the document been returned to the National Archives? 

TRUSTY: Same answer. 

REID: The story was not the result of a leak, it was a result of dogged reporting by our entire team. Up until now, most of the reporting has focused on classified documents found down in Florida at Mar-a-Lago, but this new reporting reveals at least one classified document was, for a time, in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

Now, this new recording, this really shows the extent of the legal jeopardy the former President is facing. 

HARLOW: Paula Reid, to you, to the whole team, you, Kaitlan, the five women who worked on this story did an incredible job. Thank you, Paula.