Trump faces new charges for allegedly ordering wiping of security footage

Updated indictment includes additional charges for maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira and valet Walt Nauta.

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's sprawling beachside Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 31, 2022.
Thursday’s updated indictment includes additional charges alleging that Trump and his employees deleted surveillance video at Mar-a-Lago to conceal evidence [File: Steve Helber/AP Photo]

Donald Trump is facing new criminal charges after United States prosecutors accused the former president of ordering employees to delete security camera footage at his estate in order to hinder an investigation into the mishandling of classified documents.

US federal prosecutors on Thursday announced three new charges against Trump, including obstruction and willful retention of national defence information, bringing the total number of counts against the Republican in the case to 40.

Prosecutors also charged Carlos De Oliveira, a 56-year-old maintenance worker at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, with conspiracy to obstruct justice, lying to investigators and destroying documents, according to court documents. De Oliveira is the second Trump employee to face federal criminal charges alongside the former president. Trump valet Walt Nauta was indicted in June, at the same time as the former Republican leader. Thursday’s updated grand-jury indictment also includes new charges against Nauta, including allegations that he and De Oliveira tried to suppress evidence by deleting Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage.

It accuses the three men of endeavouring to “alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal” records at Mar-a-Lago to “impair” their use as evidence.

A document showing new counts against Donald J Trump, Waltine Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira.
An updated indictment against Donald Trump and two of his employees centres on video surveillance footage [Jon Elswick/AP Photo]

Additional Trump charge for Bedminster incident

The new indictment also contains a charge related to an alleged incident at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

US news media had previously reported that, in 2021, Trump had bragged about top-secret records outlining a proposed attack on Iran. In an audio recording of the incident, Trump can be heard telling those around him, “Isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers.”

He also played up the fact that the documents he is showing off are “highly confidential, secret”.

“See, as president, I could have declassified. But now I can’t,” Trump said in the recording, seeming to acknowledge the sensitive nature of the documents. He has since made broad claims that he did declassify the documents he is accused of retaining illegally.

Referencing the Bedminster incident, Special Counsel Jack Smith – who is leading the federal investigations into Trump – added a count of willfully retaining national defence information under the Espionage Act.

A bald man in a suit walks up the steps to a Miami courthouse.
Walt Nauta, the valet to Donald Trump, has been accused of moving boxes of classified documents to conceal them from investigators [File: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

Surveillance footage suppressed

Several of the new charges stem from another interaction described in the indictment, featuring De Oliveira and Nauta.

De Oliveira is accused of approaching a fellow Mar-a-Lago employee, Yuscil Taveras, in June 2022 about deleting the server containing security camera footage from the resort.

That was after Trump received a subpoena to surrender any additional classified records.

De Oliveira allegedly took Taveras into a room called the “audio closet” and asked him how long Mar-a-Lago’s servers retained video surveillance imagery.

Telling Taveras that “the boss” wanted the server wiped, De Oliveira reportedly asked him, “What are we going to do?”

According to the updated indictment, Taveras told De Oliveira he did not know how to wipe the server and did not know if he was allowed to.

The indictment also accuses Nauta himself of approaching De Oliveira about the video surveillance on June 25, 2022. Together, they allegedly went to a security guard booth to inspect the surveillance footage monitors and walked through Mar-a-Lago passageways, identifying security cameras.

Footage from the Mar-a-Lago resort was later used as evidence in the federal criminal charges, as it purported to show Nauta transporting boxes of documents out of a storage room in an attempt to conceal them before investigators arrived.

Later, during a voluntary interview with the FBI, De Oliveira told investigators that he knew nothing about the attempt to remove the boxes.

“Never saw nothing,” De Oliveira said, according to the indictment. He is set to appear in a Miami court on July 31. The indictment accuses him and his co-defendants of attempting “to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury”.

Trump team calls new charges ‘desperate’

In the wake of the new developments, Trump’s campaign issued a statement, denouncing the new charges as a politically motivated attack led by current President Joe Biden.

“This is 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,” the statement said.

Previously, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 criminal charges, including 31 counts of willfully retaining sensitive national security information under the Espionage Act, five counts of concealing them and two counts of making false statements.

Earlier this month, Nauta likewise pleaded not guilty, as he faced six counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, false statements and withholding and concealing documents, at a Miami court.

Last week, a federal judge set Trump’s trial date in the classified document case for May 2024, less than two months before the Republican National Convention.

Trump is currently seeking a second term as president in the 2024 race and is currently leading the polls as the top Republican contender.

Trump’s ongoing criminal woes

Also on Thursday, Trump’s lawyers met with federal prosecutors ahead of a possible second federal indictment, likely about his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

“My attorneys had a productive meeting with the [Department of Justice] this morning, explaining in detail that I did nothing wrong, was advised by many lawyers, and that an indictment of me would only further destroy our country,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election was rigged in favour of his Democratic opponent, Biden, who ultimately won the race. Those unfounded claims helped spur Trump supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to disrupt the certification of Biden’s victory.

But any additional indictment would come on top of the existing array of legal jeopardy Trump already faces.

Not only does Trump face federal criminal charges for his handling of classified documents, but he also faces state-level criminal charges in New York. Those arise from an alleged hush-money payment he made to an adult film star during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged him with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the hush-money scheme, part of an alleged plot to “bury negative information” about his candidacy.

Trump also faces a civil defamation case brought by writer E Jean Carroll, who was previously awarded $5m in damages in a separate case that concluded last May. A jury at the time found Trump liable for both defamation and sexual abuse.

The former president is also the subject of an investigation in Georgia, where he pushed state election authorities to “find” extra votes to tip the 2020 election in his favour.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has previously indicated that any charges in the Georgia probe would come before September 1.

Trump is the first US president, current or former, to face criminal charges.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies