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Trump Accused of Asking Staffer to Delete Camera Footage in Classified Documents Case
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Published 9 months ago on
July 28, 2023

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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump faces new charges in the classified documents case that accuse him of asking a staffer to delete camera footage at his Florida in an effort to obstruct the federal investigation into his possession of the records, according to an updated indictment unsealed Thursday.

The indictment includes new counts of obstruction and willful retention of national defense information, compounding Trump’s legal jeopardy even as he braces for a possible additional indictment in Washington over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The additional counts underscore the extent of the yearlong investigation into Trump that first produced charges last month in the form of a 38-count indictment against Trump and his valet Walt Nauta.

Surveillance Footage at Mar-a-Lago Central to Investigation

Surveillance footage at the Mar-a-Lago complex has long been central to the investigation because, according to prosecutors, it showed 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.

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.

Updated Allegations

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.

The indictment quotes a Mar-a-Lago property manager, Carlos 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.

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 being written 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.

Prosecution’s Approach Shifts in Trump’s Case

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.

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