The Trump classified document audio may be worse than we thought

In the spring of 2018, the internet briefly caught on A different kind of fever: “Yanny” or “Laurel?” Did you hear that?

It makes no sense in the abstract, I agree. At issue was a short clip of a man speaking a name, which some heard as “Laurel” and others as “Yanny”. The name heard depends on the quality of the audio and the listener, providing plenty of fodder for the internet’s favorite act, arguing about stupidity.

Now, however, we have perhaps the most important example of a similar phenomenon.

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On Wednesday morning, I was listening to an audio recording of Trump discussing a classified document at his Bedminster, NJ, golf club in 2021. In doing so, I noticed that Trump specifically said:

Here’s how I transcribed the piece, during which Trump appears to be trying to figure out if he can share the document with the writer he’s talking to.

TRUMP: Maybe we can… right?

Waiter: I don’t know. We have to see. Yes. We should try to find out-

TRUMP: Sort of. See, I could have classified that as the president. Now I can’t, you know. But it is classified.

Waiter: (laughs) Yeah, now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn’t that interesting?

“But it’s classified” doesn’t match existing transcripts. I am Tweeted I listened, along with the audio snippet.

This defense was also summarized in the federal indictment made public earlier this month. However, the government transcript uses different language.

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TRUMP: Look at the president, I might have classified it.

Waiter: Yes. [Laughter]

TRUMP: Now I can’t, you know, but it’s still a secret.

Waiter: Yes. [Laughter] Now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn’t that interesting?

This is an important distinction. If Trump says “it’s still a secret,” he has some wiggle room in denying that he’s showing his audience a document legally protected under classification rules. If he says, “It’s classified,” that goes out the window. Trump, at the time, admitted he had something classified in his hand — and showed it to people.

Maybe I misheard the audio; Maybe Trump said “Yanny.” Some of the people who responded to my tweet heard it was written by Trump lawyers.

Or, perhaps, the record is more damaging to Trump than it first appears.

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