The conversation detailed on page 16 of the Federal indictment against Donald Trump is so captivating that it’s no wonder it has garnered enormous press and public attention. In this conversation, not only does Trump reveal that he is willing to show classified defense intelligence information to people without security clearance, but he openly admits that what he is doing is wrong and that he has no the ability to declassify information. That everything is available in audiowith the sound of Trump rustling through top secret documents, only makes it more amazing.
It’s a one-stop shop to poke holes in all the claims Trump has made about the documents, a dream chat for Special Counsel Jack Smith, and the kind of evidence that’s sure to make other prosecutors green with envy.
However, this conversation is not the only one. There is a second such conversation documented in the indictment. It also took place at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. They were also classified defense documents. What is provided about this conversation is much less detailed, but it may be worse in terms of national security threat than the tape-recorded conversation. Because in this second instance, Trump was talking about an active, ongoing military operation, and he was spilling that information to a Republican election operative with hundreds of connections and a leaky reputation.
This conversation is described in a single paragraph of Section 35 of the Indictment.
In August or September 2021, when he was no longer President, TRUMP met in his Bedminster Club office with a representative of his Political Action Committee (the “PAC Representative”). During the meeting, TRUMP said an ongoing military operation in Country B was not going well. TRUMP showed the PAC representative a classified map of Country B and told the PAC representative that he should not show the map to the PAC representative and not get too close. The PAC representative had no security clearance or classified need-to-know information about the military operation.
As in the first conversation, Trump once again clarifies that the information he is showing is classified and he should not show it to anyone. He even acknowledges that the PAC representative has no security clearance or justification to view sensitive military information. Even if the first conversation didn’t exist, that alone would be enough to tick all the boxes for a federal indictment.
However, there is reason to believe that this conversion is even worse than the one that has received so much attention, because in this case the information Trump is showing describes an “ongoing military operation.”
From the information provided, it is not possible to determine exactly which operation it is, but there is an obvious candidate: the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
In February 2020, Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw the United States from Afghanistan. This agreement was reached without the participation of the Afghan government. Trump’s deal would have originally called for all troops to leave in the spring of 2021, but President Joe Biden delayed the schedule in April of that year, pushing the date for the departure of the last US forces until the end of August. .
If Trump showed documents regarding an active and ongoing military operation in August 2021, including taking out cardsit was probably related to Afghanistan.
However, there are other candidates. Clearly, this had nothing to do with Iran, as Iran had already been referred to as “Country A” earlier in the indictment. Other good candidates for Country B could be Syria, where there had been a missile swap earlier in the year, or even Ukraine, where around 80,000 Russian forces had already gathered near the Russian-Ukrainian border before the February 2022 invasion.
Regardless of location, Trump was evidently showing documents and maps that likely detailed troop capabilities and positions on the ground during an ongoing military operation. It’s hard to think of anything that represents more closely guarded or more vital information.
ABC News identified the person receiving the information as Susie Wiles, a longtime political operative from Florida and a top adviser in Trump’s re-election effort. Wiles is described as “one of Trump’s most trusted advisers.” Predictably, the Trump campaign claims that in investigating this conversation between Wiles and Trump, Smith’s office is “openly engaging in outright election interference and interfering by attacking one of the leaders of President Trump’s re-election campaign”.
But it wasn’t Smith who brought Wiles to a Bedminster conference room and unfolded a classified map to show him. It was all Trump.
The exact reason why Trump would do this is not disclosed in the indictment. It could be an expression of the same hubris that drove Trump to pull out classified documents and show them to a ghostwriter for Mark Meadows, but there could have been deeper political motives. Even as the evacuation from Afghanistan took place, Trump was blasting Biden, calling him “a fooland blaming Biden for the deal Trump made to withdraw his forces. It is possible that Trump and Wiles have reviewed classified documents on Afghanistan to identify potential issues on which they could attack Biden or distance Trump from perceived issues.
Whatever the reason, Trump was showing detailed information about an ongoing military operation to a woman who The hill described as “the most powerful Republican you didn’t know”. Wiles is said to have a large network of “Susie people” and has been an agent in a number of campaigns. That includes firing Ron DeSantis’ campaign in 2019 following what were allegedly “embarrassing leaks,” which DeSantis blamed on Wiles.
This makes her a less than ideal candidate to be shown maps of critical national defense operations. But then Trump apparently told him to “not get too close” to the map, which will surely come down to his defense.
What is clear from the other Bedminster case is that:
There were classified documents, including maps, reflecting a military operation then in apparent trouble.
Trump verified that these documents were classified and that Wiles had no reason to see them.
Trump made it clear he was aware that Wiles had no form of clearance and should not see the documents.
Then he showed the documents to Wiles anyway. Although, in addition to all of the above, she had a reputation for being on the run.
The only way this incident could have been worse is if Trump had directly told the Taliban leadership the best places to drop a bomb…instead of indirectly.