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Source: The National

Jul 29, 2023

Why did Trump have a plan to attack Iran?
Trump administration pulled out of nuclear deal and was hostile towards Tehran

The criminal prosecution of Donald Trump has become even more serious now that investigators have charged him with new crimes related to his handling of classified information after he left office in January 2021.

Central to many of the dozens of charges the former president faces is one particular document that prosecutors have described “as a plan of attack” against another country, widely reported to be Iran.

Here is what we know so far:

What was the document?

During a July 2021 interview with visitors to his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Mr Trump showed off the document to people who didn't have security clearance to see it, prosecutors say. Not only that, after his presidency, Mr Trump was not authorised to possess or retain classified documents.

The interview was for a memoir of his one-time chief of staff Mark Meadows. In his subsequent book, Mr Meadows said the country concerned was Iran.

The new charges against Mr Trump include an additional count of wilfully retaining national defence information related to a presentation about military activity in another country.

Details about that document and the meeting were included in the original indictment, but no charges had related to it until now.

Mr Trump didn't return that document to the US government until January 17, 2022 – nearly a year after he left office, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that during the July 2021 meeting, Mr Trump had waved around the classified attack plan to his guests.

“This is secret information,” he said, according to a recording cited in the documents, claiming that, “as President I could have declassified it” but hadn’t.

Why was there a plan to attack Iran?

During his presidency, Mr Trump's administration took a hostile approach to Iran and worked with war hawks who were keen to bomb the country if it appeared to be getting too close to developing a nuclear weapon.

In 2018, Mr Trump announced that the US would be unilaterally withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action aimed at curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions in return for economic relief. Negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, the deal enraged Republicans who saw it as providing legitimacy and resources to Tehran's regime.

After the US pulled out of the deal, Tehran ramped up its enrichment of uranium and increased hostilities across the Gulf region through Iran-backed militias.

Mr Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton is a well-known proponent of attacking Iran. He served under Mr Trump from 2018-2019 before being fired after the president derided him as a warmonger that would have started “World War Six” if he'd had his way.

The Pentagon has war plans to deal with just about any military contingency, so the fact it had options for military strikes against Iran is no surprise.

What does Trump say?

Mr Trump has denied he had secret documents before him when he spoke in Bedminster.

“There wasn’t a document. I had lots of paper. I had copies of newspaper articles, I had copies of magazines, I had copies of everything,” he said in an interview with Fox News host Bret Baier.

Of the latest charges, Mr Trump said on his Truth Social platform: “This is textbook Third World intimidation by rabid, lawless prosecutors.”

Mr Trump pleaded not guilty in Florida in June. He also faces an unrelated criminal case in New York and is the subject of at least two other investigations, one in Georgia and one in Washington.

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