Federal prosecutors have added more charges against former president Donald Trump for allegedly obstructing the investigation into whether he unlawfully retained national defence information at his Palm Beach, Florida property.
In a superceding indictment filed late on Thursday, prosecutors alleged that Mr Trump and co-defendant Walt Nauta conspired with another Mar-a-Lago worker, Carlos De Oliveira, to attempt to have surveillance footage from the club deleted so it could not be provided to the grand jury investigating the presence of classified documents at his property.
Mr Trump was also newly charged with specifically posessing the classified document which he is alleged to have shown to a group of people at his Bedminster, New Jersey club.
In a statement, Mr Trump’s presidential campaign called the new charges “nothing more than a continued desperate and flailing attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their Department of Justice to harass President Trump and those around him”.
“Deranged Jack Smith knows that they have no case and is casting about for any way to salvage their illegal witch hunt and to get someone other than Donald Trump to run against Crooked Joe Biden,” the campaign said.
In the superceding indictment, which was signed by Mr Smith personally, prosecutors allege that Mr Trump masterminded efforts to prevent the government from obtaining the footage it would later use to charge him with obstruction when he was first indicted on 8 June.
According to the indictment, Mr Trump allegedly called Mr De Oliveira on 23 June of last year, one day after prosecutors emailed his company a draft grand jury subpoena calling for production of CCTV camera footage from the club, including locations where boxes containing classified documents were stored.
It’s not known exactly what Mr Trump said to his new co-defendant during the 24 minute phone call, but prosecutors allege that at some point Mr Trump ordered the deletion of security camera footage so it could not be used to further the probe into his possession of documents with classification markings after the end of his presidency.
The next day, prosecutors served the Trump Organization with the final version of the subpoena, and Mr Trump is alleged to have met with Mr Nauta, who subsequently cancelled plans to travel with Mr Trump and instead arranged travel to Palm Beach.
After the former US Navy Chief Petty Officer changed his plans, prosecutors allege that he lied to fellow employees and Secret Service agents about the purpose of his travel.
At the same time, he contacted another Mar-a-Lago employee who served as director of information technology at the club, as well as another Mar-a-Lago worker, and disclosed to the latter that his purpose in visiting the club was to discuss how long CCTV footage was stored.
Prosecutors also allege that Mr Nauta and Mr De Oliveira actually walked through the darkened club after Mr Nauta arrived there on 25 June, with flashlights to determine where different security cameras were located.
Mr De Oliveira, who has also been charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice, subsequently told the aforementioned Mar-a-Lago employee that “the boss” wanted the footage deleted before it could be provided to the grand jury investigating the presence of classified documents at the club.
The longtime Mar-a-Lago worker is also charged with lying to FBI agents about his role in assisting in the moving of boxes containing classified documents at different points during the investigation.
Additionally, Mr Nauta has now been charged with conspiring with Mr De Oliveira to obstruct justice by participating in the efforts to have the surveillance at issue deleted, and Mr Trump has been hit with another count of obstruction of justice for asking for the footage to be deleted.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr Nauta contacted another Mar-a-Lago worker following the 8 August 2022 search of the club by FBI agents to tell them that “someone just to make sure Carlos is good”.
The employee replied that Mr De Oliveira was loyal and would not do anything to harm his relationship with his employer, the ex-president.
Mr Nauta also caused the worker to tell an employee of Mr Trump’s political action committee that Mr De Oliveira was loyal, and Mr Trump later personally called Mr De Oliveira to assure him that he would get him legal representation.
Mr De Oliveira has been summoned to make his first court appearance in the case on 31 July at the same Miami courthouse where Mr Trump and Mr Nauta were arraigned.
The new charges against Mr Trump and Mr Nauta and the charges against their new co-defendant come as Mr Smith and his colleagues are weighing whether to ask a Washington, DC grand jury to indict Mr Trump for crimes allegedly committed as he tried to overturn his 2020 election loss and remain in office against the will of voters.
Last week, Mr Trump revealed that prosecutors had given his defence team a letter informing them that he is a target in the Justice Department probe into his to effort overturn the election and the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
The letter is understood to lay out three crimes which Mr Trump could be charged for: conspiracy to defraud the United States, deprivation of rights under colour of law, and tampering with a witness.
As grand jurors met at the Washington, DC federal courthouse on Thursday, Mr Trump’s legal team also met with prosecutors to try to dissuade them from seeking what would be the third indictment of Mr Trump since April.
The ex-president later took to his bespoke social media platform in the early afternoon to confirm that his defence team had concluded what he described as a “productive meeting” with Department of Justice representatives,
He also stated that his legal team spent the session “explaining in detail that [he] did nothing wrong, was advised by many lawyers, and that an Indictment of [him] would only further destroy our Country”.
Grand jurors finished their work on Thursday without voting on any indictments, but they could be asked to return charges against Mr Trump when they reconvene on Tuesday.
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