Legal experts foresaw serious consequences for Donald Trump following the reported newly-surfaced recording from July 2021 in which the former president allegedly claimed to have classified documents ― about a possible attack on Iran ― after leaving the White House.
CNN’s report Wednesday that federal prosecutors obtained the audio amid special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the classified documents scandal would, if accurate, spell another indictment for Trump, they said.
Former civil prosecutor Maya Wiley, appearing on MSNBC’s “The Beat,” described the audio as “explosive” and “the last nail in a coffin that already has a whole lot of nails in it.”
On the same show, former federal prosecutor Paul Butler said it was “devastating for Donald Trump.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who investigated Trump’s role in Russian interference in the 2016 election, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace it could be “game over” for Trump.
“There is no way that he will not be charged,” said Weissmann.
The audio differentiated Trump’s classified documents case to those of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, who were both also found to have classified materials in their possession but, unlike Trump, handed them over when asked, said Weissmann.
If the reporting is accurate, he said, “There will be an indictment and it is hard to see how given all the evidence that we’ve been talking about that there will not be a conviction here. I mean, this is a tape recording.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, talking on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour,” said it would be “unbelievably powerful to play a tape recording for a jury and to have them hear the defendants essentially confess that he knew that he could not de-classify information on the spot,” which has been one of Trump’s defenses amid the scandal.
Former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams told CNN’s Anderson Cooper there is “no such thing as a smoking gun in the real world.”
But the reported recording would be “incredibly valuable evidence because it speaks to intent, it speaks to knowledge and it speaks to what he knew that he had. So it is, as far as evidence goes, very, very powerful,” he said.
Former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman, meanwhile, said the audio, and what Trump reportedly said in it, raised the former president’s “criminal exposure.”
“War plans are among the most highly classified documents,” Goodman wrote on Twitter. “Puts pressure on DOJ to indict, and a jury to convict.”
“Make no mistake. This is squarely an Espionage Act case. It is not simply an ‘obstruction’ case,” Goodman added. “There is now every reason to expect former President Trump will be charged under 18 USC 793(e) of the Espionage Act. The law fits his reported conduct like a hand in glove.”