Trump accused of asking staffer to delete Mar-a-Lago footage in classified documents case
WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump faced new charges Thursday in a case accusing him of illegally possessing classified documents, with prosecutors alleging that he asked a staffer to delete camera footage at his Florida estate in an effort to obstruct a federal investigation.
The indictment includes new counts of obstruction and willful retention of national defense information, adding fresh detail to an indictment issued last month against Trump and a close aide. The additional charges came as a surprise given the escalating anticipation of a possible additional indictment in Washington over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The updated indictment makes clear that the vast -- and unknown -- scope of legal exposure faced by Trump as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024 while fending off criminal cases in multiple cities.
The updated allegations in the indictment center on surveillance footage at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. Trump is alleged to have asked to have the footage deleted after FBI and Justice Department investigators visited in June 2022 to collect classified documents that he took with him after leaving the White House a year earlier. Law enforcement officials issued a subpoena for the footage after noticing surveillance cameras while they were there.
Such footage has long been central to the investigation because, according to prosecutors, it showed Trump valet Nauta moving boxes of documents in and out of a storage room -- including such action one day before a visit by FBI and Justice Department officials. Nauta was indicted alongside Trump in a 38-count indictment, accused of lying to the FBI and conspiring with the former president to conceal the records.
The indictment states that between June 2022 and August 2022, Trump, Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, a Mar-a-Lago property manager, "did corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal" documents located at Mar-a-Lago with an intention to "impair" its use in any official proceeding. It alleges that all three men requested that a fourth, unidentified Trump employee delete security footage captured at the club "to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury."
The indictment quotes De Oliveira telling a colleague that the "boss" wanted a server hosting the footage to be deleted. It says De Oliveira went to the IT office last June, took an employee to a small room known as the "audio closet" and asked the person how many days the server retained footage.
When the employee said he didn't believe he was able to delete footage, De Oliveira insisted the "boss" wanted it done, asking, "What are we going to do?"
De Oliveira was added to the indictment, charged with obstruction and false statements related to an interview he gave the FBI earlier this year. A lawyer for De Oliveira declined to comment.
A Trump spokesperson dismissed the new charges as "nothing more than a continued desperate and flailing attempt" by the Biden administration "to harass President Trump and those around him" and to influence the 2024 presidential race.
The superseding indictment charges Trump with an additional count of willfully retaining national defense information, relating to a July 2021 interview at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club in which the former president discussed U.S. military plans to attack another country. The interview was for a memoir by his onetime chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who in his subsequent book named the country as Iran.
According to the indictment, Trump returned that document, which was marked as top secret and not approved to show to foreign nationals, to the federal government on Jan. 17, 2022.
It marks a notable shift in the prosecution's approach to Trump's case, charging him for retaining a document it alleges the former president knew was highly sensitive after he left office -- and not just for failing to return it to the government when asked.
Both Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty.