Washington — Donald Trump allegedly discussed sensitive information pertaining to American nuclear submarines with an Australian billionaire at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to three people familiar with the matter. The individual, Anthony Pratt, has been identified as a potential witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s case against the former president, sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBS News.
The special counsel charged Trump with 32 counts of the unlawful retention of national defense information after federal investigators found more than 300 documents with classified markings at his Palm Beach estate after he left office. The former president and two of his aides are also accused of engaging in various alleged obstruction schemes to block the investigation. All have pleaded not guilty.
There is no indication that the former president shared any sensitive records with the Australian businessman, CBS News confirmed.
Pratt is not accused of any wrongdoing.
ABC News first reported Trump’s conversations with Pratt, and the New York Times first reported Pratt’s potential involvement in the upcoming criminal trial.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment. Representatives for Pratt did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump has consistently denied wrongdoing in the case and on Friday called stories about his conversations with Pratt “false and ridiculous.”
“I will often state that we make the best Submarines and Military Equipment anywhere in the World—A pretty well known fact,” Trump wrote on his social media site. “These fake stories are put out by corrupt prosecutors trying to interfere with the Presidential Election of 2024.”
While the exact nature of the conversations and how seriously prosecutors view the allegations is not clear, Pratt’s discussions with Trump could be used at trial as a way to bolster the special counsel’s argument that the former president mishandled sensitive information.
At least some of Trump’s discussions with Pratt about the capabilities of U.S. nuclear submarines occurred while Trump was president, at a time when Australia was still under contract to purchase French submarines, according to one person familiar with the matter. Pratt was not sure about the veracity of Trump’s comments, the person said, and the billionaire later recounted the story as an anecdote about the former president’s desire to tout American military products as paramount.
In 2021, President Biden and leaders from Australia and the U.K.between the three nations that would give Australia access to American nuclear submarine technology. The deal resulted in the cancellation of Australia’s $100 billion contract with France, to the consternation of the French.
Trump is accused by the special counsel of showing other individuals on at least two other occasions sensitive government records after he left office, including aallegedly containing classified information about plans for how the U.S. would attack Iran if it ever decided to do so.
According to a copy of a recording of that conversation obtained by CBS News, Trump is heard telling those in the room at his Bedminster club in New Jersey, “It is like highly confidential, secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”
The document and recording are described in theas an alleged meeting with “a writer, a publisher, and two members of” Trump’s staff, “none of whom possessed a security clearance.”
Smith’s case against Trump — set to go to trial in May 2024 in the Southern District of Florida — stems from the former president’s alleged refusal to return sensitive and classified government records to the National Archives after he left office.
Margaret Brennan contributed reporting