Trump pleads not guilty to new charges in Mar-a-Lago documents case

Trump Classified Documents (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Trump Classified Documents (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
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Less than 24 hours after he appeared to answer the latest federal indictment against him in a Washington, DC courtroom, former president Donald Trump officially entered a plea of “not guilty” to the 40-count superseding indictment in a separate case against him in the Southern District of Florida.

Mr Trump did not appear in court to enter a plea, but his attorney, Christopher Kise, filed a waiver of appearance in which the former president entered a plea to the new charges that a South Florida grand jury approved against him last Thursday.

In that superseding indictment, 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 released that evening, 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”.

The charging document states prosecutors’ allegation 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 maintenance supervisor pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance on 31 July.