New allegations have surfaced against former US President Donald Trump, accusing him of exerting pressure on an employee to delete security footage at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, in an attempt to obstruct the investigation into a case involving classified documents.
The new charges levied against Mr. Trump are related to his alleged mishandling of government documents at Mar-a-Lago. He now faces one count of wilful retention of defense information and two counts of obstruction.
According to prosecutors, the security footage captured unauthorized possession of files, which were then seen being moved. In connection with this incident, Mar-a-Lago staff member Carlos de Oliveira has also been indicted. He is alleged to have inquired about potential measures to delete the incriminating footage.
Both Mr. Trump and his close aide, Walt Nauta, have entered pleas of not guilty. Additionally, on Thursday, Walt Nauta received two additional charges of obstruction in relation to the same case.
The revised indictment provides detailed allegations concerning the collaborative efforts between Mr. Nauta and Mr. de Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, in their attempt to obstruct the investigation by the Justice Department.
According to the new court documents, Mr. Nauta and Mr. de Oliveira conspired to erase security camera footage following a subpoena from the Department of Justice, which sought surveillance recordings of the basement where confidential documents were believed to be held.
The court documents claim that Mr. de Oliveira sent a text message to another employee, who served as the director of information technology, stating that “the boss” desired the server to be deleted.
Allegedly, Mr. de Oliveira subsequently met with this IT employee in a secluded IT room and insisted on the confidentiality of their conversation. Under pressure, the IT employee acquiesced to Mr. de Oliveira’s request, despite asserting that he lacked the authority to do so.
The indictment paints a scene where Mr. de Oliveira navigated through bushes and foliage at the periphery of Mar-a-Lago, the renowned leisure resort known as the Winter White House, to reach the IT room and rendezvous with Mr. Nauta.
As per the indictment, Mr. de Oliveira asked his co-worker, “What are we going to do?” The lawyer representing Mr. de Oliveira has declined to offer any comments at this time.
In addition to the updated charges against Mr. Nauta and Mr. de Oliveira, the indictment alleges that Mr. Trump knowingly discussed a top-secret document with biographers during their visit to Mar-a-Lago for an interview.
“Look what I found… Isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look,” Mr Trump allegedly said to one of his guests.
The documents case is led by special prosecutor Jack Smith, who earlier in the day met with Mr Trump’s lawyers over a separate investigation into alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Mr Trump’s attorneys John Lauro and Todd Blanche met officials at Mr Smith’s office in Washington DC, US media reported.
The former president said earlier this month that he expected to be indicted in that case, but said on Thursday his lawyers received no indication of timing.
Mr Trump dismissed the fresh charges in the documents case in an emailed statement from his 2024 presidential campaign.
“Deranged Jack Smith knows that they have no case and is casting about for any way to salvage their illegal witch hunt,” the statement read.
The latest charge against Mr Trump adds to a growing list of legal problems for the property and reality TV mogul.
He currently awaits trial for a hush-money case in which he faces 34 felony counts, he faces civil charges in a defamation case against author E Jean Carroll, and Georgia prosecutors are still weighing whether or not to press charges over an alleged effort overturn the election results there.
Former Trump aide Stephen Moore told the BBC the charges against the former president amounted to “attacks” which were serving to solidify his nomination in the Republican presidential primaries.
“The more they indict him, the more his popularity goes up with Republicans”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.