What We Know About How Alleged Classified Documents About Iran Relate to the Trump Indictment

AP Photo/Steven Senne

The document drama continues for former President Donald Trump. CNN and other outlets have obtained audio from a 2021 meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, in which Trump discusses documents about military plans for a potential attack on Iran.

Despite initial reporting to the contrary, it is not believed the alleged memo is part of the 37-count federal indictment against the former president over the mishandling of classified documents. Even so, Trump has been defending himself in the press.

On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by Ric Grenell, acting director of National Intelligence during the Trump administration, to discuss the new developments about the audio and memo and the role of a July 2021 article in The New Yorker in the story.

Is the New Audio Relevant?

The audio in question comes from a July 2021 meeting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster with people working on the memoir of her former chief of staff Mark Meadows. In the two-minute clip, the sound of shuffling papers makes it seem like Trump is holding up a document that he describes as “highly confidential, secret” while discussing Pentagon plans for Iran. “This is secret information. Look, look at this,” he said in the tape. “See, as president I could have declassified, but now I can’t, you know… Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool.”

On its face, the audio doesn’t seem to help Trump’s cause. “I mean, it doesn’t exactly make Trump sound good – it sounds like he’s got a classified document there, though he’s denying it,” Megyn noted. But more details continue to emerge. CBS News reports the Defense Department memo about Iran at the heart of the audio recording is not part of the 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information charged in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of the former president.

That leads to questions about just how relevant this leak will be to the federal indictment. “I guess it’s relevant because they’re going to say, ‘You see, members of the jury, he knew that he had classified material, confidential national security and defense information. He was reckless with it, he was careless,’” Megyn explained. “At this point, [it] would be part of the story but not a requirement to make the case against Trump.”

Trump’s Latest Defense

During an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier last week, Trump said he did not have any documents in his possession:

“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.”

– Donald Trump, June 19, 2023

Speaking to Fox News again on Tuesday, Trump offered this:

“I said it very clearly, I had a whole desk full of lots of papers and mostly newspaper articles, copies of magazines, copies of different plans, copies of stories having to do with many, many subjects, and what was said was absolutely fine and very perfectly…. What did I say wrong in those recordings… I don’t know of any recordings that you should be concerned with because I don’t do things wrong. I do things right. I’m a legitimate person. I’m not like Biden.”

– Donald Trump, June 27, 2023

He also commented to Semafor and ABC News on the matter, saying the exchange was a case of “bravado”:

“I would say it’s bravado. If you want to know the truth, it was bravado. I was talking and just holding up papers and talking about, but I have no documents. I didn’t have any documents.”

– Donald Trump, June 27, 2023

The final defense is actually one that Megyn floated when the indictment first came down. “He does get specific in the audio tape making it sound like he’s got the document in hand, but I said from the beginning – before we even heard the recording – what Trump is now saying, essentially that it could have been bluster,” she shared. “It could have been Trump being like, ‘I’ve got it right here. Trust me, Mark Milley was the one pushing war, not me.’ We don’t know whether Trump actually had the document in hand or not.” 

The Role of The New Yorker Article

In July 2021, The New Yorker published an article by Susan B. Glasser titled “‘You’re Gonna Have a F-cking War’: Mark Milley’s Fight to Stop Trump From Striking Iran.” The audio tape of Trump is clearly in the wake of the piece, which Grenell believes plays prominently into the conversation. “I wasn’t there… but let me just speculate here because I know President Trump and I heard the recordings,” he shared. “To me, it’s pretty simple: There was a New Yorker piece that really got people riled up.”

As Grenell explained, the article suggested General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented a plan to attack Iran that the former president was considering. Grenell called the report “hogwash” and noted the very premise goes against Trump’s foreign policy. “Obviously, that is salacious,” he said. “It goes to the heart of the Trump Doctrine, which is to use tough diplomacy, sanctions, isolation, etc. to get your enemies to do something rather than war.”

When you consider that in relation to the audio, Grenell said it is possible Trump was holding up the article. “Donald Trump gets emotional about a lot of these articles,” he concluded. “To me, it would be very obvious to hold up The New Yorker piece… [and] try to bat down the narrative that somehow we were planning to attack Iran.”

You can check out Megyn’s full conversation with Grenell by tuning in to episode 577 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.