Trump was recorded saying he knew he had a classified document.

Former President Donald J. Trump declared at a meeting in July 2021, six months after leaving the White House, that a document in front of him was “classified” and “highly confidential,” according to a person briefed on the matter.

That meeting, with people helping his former chief of staff with a book, has been previously reported but new details of Mr. Trump’s specific comments appear to demonstrate explicitly that he was aware that materials he had taken with him from the White House included classified information. The recording is expected to be a key piece of evidence in the case against him that the special counsel Jack Smith brought this week, with seven counts related to his possession of reams of classified material.

Mr. Trump also indicated he couldn’t show the document to the people in front of him — many if not all of whom didn’t have security clearances that would allow them to see sensitive government material — and added, “As president, I could have declassified them, now I can’t,” according to the person briefed on the matter, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Mr. Trump then said the document was “classified,” and a woman in the room replied, “Now we have a problem,” according to the person familiar with the recording.

Many details of what is said on the recording were reported earlier by CNN, which also first reported on the existence of the recording.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to an email about the new information.

The meeting took place in July 2021, by which time officials at the National Archives had already spent at least two months pressing Mr. Trump’s representatives on returning documents they believed he had in his possession.

The transcript demonstrates that Mr. Trump was not only aware he had sensitive material, but had it with him at his club at Bedminster, N.J., where the meeting took place, and that he knew he no longer had the power to declassify material.

Mr. Trump’s meeting was with two people helping Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, with a memoir about his tenure in the White House. Aides to Mr. Trump also attended.

At the time, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Mr. Trump had appointed, had been a subject of multiple media portraits describing him as pressing back against an erratic president in the final months of the presidency.

Mr. Trump went on a tear about General Milley.

“Isn’t it amazing, I have a big pile of papers,” Mr. Trump said at one point. Papers could be heard rustling, and then Mr. Trump began appearing to point to a specific document, saying, “Look, this was him.” At another point he said, “This was the Defense Department and him.”

He described something in front of him as “like, highly confidential,” and maintained it was really General Milley who wanted to attack Iran (in fact, General Milley cautioned against such a move).

At one point Mr. Trump was interrupted, and a woman in the room could be heard on the recording referencing Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state whose email server Mr. Trump used as an attack line during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump said Mrs. Clinton would send material “to Anthony Weiner, that pervert,” referring to the former congressman who was married to an aide to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump and his allies have repeatedly asserted that, while still in office, he had declassified all the material he took with him from the White House (though the charges may not rely on whether anything was classified). But his assertion appeared to be undercut by the recording.

“As president, I could have declassified them, now I can’t,” Mr. Trump was recorded saying, according to the person familiar with its contents. He then reiterated something was “classified” as he and one of the women in the room talked over each other, according to the person familiar with its contents.

“Isn’t that interesting? It’s so cool,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “You probably almost didn’t believe me, but now you believe me.”

Maggie Haberman is a senior political correspondent and the author of “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.” She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump’s advisers and their connections to Russia. @maggieNYT

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