The irrelevancy of the CNN tape of Trump implying a document is classified
Leftists and others who dislike Trump are delighted with the news that the Justice Department leaked an audio tape in which Trump is recorded saying that he has a “highly confidential” document that he then allegedly shows someone. In fact, I would argue that, whether looked at through the filter of substantive law, Trump’s personality, or inadmissible evidence, it’s a completely useless revelation—although everyone in the Justice Department connected to the leak should be summarily fired and then prosecuted.
Politico describes what can be heard on the tape:
In the two-minute recording, Trump can be heard stating, “these are the papers” while referring to something he calls “highly confidential.”
“This was done by the military and given to me,” Trump said in the recording. “See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
Trump describes his “big pile of paper” to people in the room and says, “Isn’t it amazing? … They presented me this — this is off the record.”
The tape, first obtained by CNN, comes from a July 2021 meeting at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club.
Here’s the proud CNN video:
The implication that Trump had super-secret classified documents is just wrong. Robert Turner wrote a brilliant, erudite analysis of the foundational history of an American president’s absolute power over national security matters. My take moves the analysis to the modern era, but the combined effect is the same: the president makes the calls about what must be kept secret.
Where Prof. Turner and I differ is our take on the effect of this recording. I contend that once Trump walked the documents out of the White House, he lowered or erased their security status entirely. Regardless of what he said after the fact, their changed status was a fait accompli.
And what about what he said? It seems pretty damning, doesn’t it? Well, it does if you dislike Trump. However, if you’ve been following Trump for a long time, it’s a classic case of what Trump has always done: It’s puffery.
In the advertising world, puffery is exaggerated language that is legal in a way that lies would not be. The FTC, therefore, “generally will not pursue obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously.”
Trump exists in a world of verbal puffery. Everything he does is bigger, better, faster, stronger… What he does will be yuuuge and beee-yu-tiful. His phone calls are “perfect,” and his policies are always the best. It’s this kind of language that led Selina Zito to write so elegantly that “the press takes [Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” In other words, Trump’s supporters have the intelligence to separate substantive wheat from frilly, overwrought verbal chaff.
So, when Trump boasts to someone that a document is super-duper special and secret, only someone very credulous would take him seriously. If he had it in his hand after having left the White House, he had de facto declassified it, and everything else he said was boastfulness.
I’m not defending Trump’s perpetual need to bestow accolades on himself, whether directly or inferentially. I find it irritating, but it’s also part of what made him so successful as a developer, TV personality, and politician: He carries people along with his vision of success, one that depends on his own wonderfulness as the starting point.
There’s one more thing, though, that makes this tape a nothingburger, a point the Conservative Treehouse makes:
Putting aside the fact that CNN, and the entire media apparatus already reporting on this nonsense before and putting aside the ridiculous nature of the top-line claims, the audio proves nothing. It is the sound of President Trump talking about presidential papers that are claimed by the DOJ to be “classified” or “secret.” Except, beyond the absurdity, there’s a problem that explains why Jack Smith gave CNN the audio.
Despite the grand pontifications and breathless pearl-clutching by the CNN narrative engineers, the audio will NEVER be used at trial – if there is even a trial – which is highly unlikely, because it cannot be admitted into evidence. That’s why Jack Smith gave it to them. The audio is useless, except for the value in promoting the lawfare narrative engineering effort.
Why? Because the documents that are claimed to be heard in the audio are nowhere to be found. That’s right, the DOJ and FBI never found any “classified” or “super-secret” documents as described in the audio. As a result, the audio represents nothing, a literal nothingburger, because without the documents the audio is inadmissible.
You cannot submit evidence in court of a person talking about documents without the documents the audio is supposedly talking about.
The real scandal isn’t Trump’s puffery. It’s the DOJ’s conduct, which taints any future jury pool. What the DOJ did violates any concept of due process of law and constitutes criminal election interference. It’s a graphic illustration of our two-tiered justice system, with leftists above the law and everyone else, especially Trump, below it.