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CNN got a copy of the audio recording noted in the Mar-a-Lago indictment in which Trump shows off highly classified military plans for an attack on Iran to some randoms who were putting together a biography of Mark Meadows. I’m not sure which is more shocking: that he was doing this or that someone was writing a Mark Meadows bio. But however that may be, CNN has the recording. It was from 2021 and the recording was made at Trump’s Bedminster golf club.

It’s about as it was described in the indictment. But hearing it does make it come alive in a different way. He’s so guilty as sin it really does beggar belief. He says it’s highly classified; that it would be cool if he could declassify it now but he can’t because he’s no longer President; and he’s showing it to just random people. The recording makes clear that he’s entirely aware of every link in the chain of criminality. You can listen to it here.

I’m certainly not willing to exonerate Trump of eventual plans to share or sell or profit, literally or figuratively for disclosing the contents of these documents to others. I just resist those theories because they’re too literal, too limited. The conversation caught on tape here captures a lot of why he held on to this stuff.

It meant he still had juice, had secrets he could hold over people. He could reward people or punish them.

Here clearly Trump is still hung up that Joint Chiefs Chair Milley said he was afraid Trump would launch a war with Iran as a distraction in the final days of his presidency. But in fact, claims Trump, it was Milley who wanted to go to war with Iran. And Trump’s got the highly classified war plans to prove it.

Now, the factual premise here is silly. The U.S. maintains war plans for wars with lots of countries. And not just the obvious ones. I remember hearing once that the U.S. maintained plans on the shelves for invasions of Canada and the UK well into the 20th century. Whether that particular anecdote is accurate, the general point is: of course we have plans for a war with Iran. I bet we have several — one for a strike to destroy the nuclear research infrastructure, probably another to destroy the Iranian military and a big one for invading and occupying the country. If that’s what Trump is referring to that means nothing about what Milley wanted to do. But the point is that Trump thinks it does. And he thinks this is a big gotcha against Milley.

There are so many people Trump is mad at or wants to get back at I wouldn’t even have remembered that this is one of his grievances. But clearly it is. It’s another chit. Something he’s got over Milley. For Trump it’s all about how he can help you or hurt you. In his mind these documents give him juice. That’s why he wants them. It’s power. And in his mind they’re really his anyway, just like the whole U.S. government was and, he hopes, could be again in less than two years.

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