A newly released version of an FBI affidavit for a search warrant of Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate adds some key details about how and when investigators discovered and obtained security camera footage that shows boxes allegedly filled with classified documents moved to Mar-a-Lago grounds.
The information in the affidavit was sought by the media after the former president was accused last month of deliberately keeping classified US government documents. Justice Department prosecutors have agreed to release certain additional portions of the 39-page affidavit for the search warrant dated August 5, 2022, though many portions are still redacted, according to an order issued late Wednesday by the judge. magistrate Bruce Reinhart in West Palm Beach federal search.
The Justice Department investigation intensified in May last year when a federal grand jury issued an initial subpoena for classified documents Trump had transferred from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. .
But in June, the case took a crucial turn when a lawyer for Trump told a federal prosecutor that there were security cameras near the storage area where investigators suspected boxes containing classified documents. were kept, according to the partially unsealed FBI affidavit. On June 24, 2022, a second grand jury subpoena requesting the video footage was served on Trump’s attorney.
The partially redacted subpoena requested the following: “All surveillance recordings, videos, images, photographs and/or CCTV from internal cameras located on the ground floor (basement) … on the Mar-a property -Lago located at 1100 S Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL 33480 from the period of January 10, 2022 to present.
Although limited, legal experts say the new information is significant, helping to explain what led to the charges of conspiracy to obstruct Justice Department efforts to recover classified documents against the former president. This second grand jury subpoena revealed CCTV footage that prosecutors say shows Trump aide Walt Nauta, who faces arraignment Thursday in federal court in Miami, moving boxes between a storage room and other areas at Mar-a-Lago, prior to the August 2022 FBI raid.
“This evidence is at the heart of the case against Trump,” said former U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman, who now runs a law firm in Miami.
The security footage contained video footage from April 23 to June 24, 2022 as Trump was asked to turn over documents. Footage revealed that a Trump staffer, identified as ‘Witness 5’, moved dozens of boxes from the storage area to an antechamber and then returned some of them between May 24 and May 2. June 2022. FBI agents interviewed Witness 5 on May 26. , 2022, during which “the location of the boxes was the subject of significant questioning,” according to the partially leaked FBI affidavit. In the indictment, Nauta is accused of lying to FBI agents that day about the location of the boxes.
The attorney for Trump who coordinated the rotation of classified files and surveillance footage was Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney in the Washington, DC area. Corcoran, who testified before the grand jury in March, is identified as ‘Counsel 1’ in the indictment accusing Trump of willfully withholding national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, d conspiring to obstruct justice and making a false statement in connection with the government. subpoena.
In the obstruction conspiracy count, Trump is accused of misleading Lawyer 1 – Corcoran – who represented the former president as the lawyer tried to compile classified documents at Mar-a- Lago for subpoena a year ago. At Trump’s direction, Nauta assisted the former president in this task by moving 64 boxes containing classified documents from the storage room to Trump’s residence and then returning only 30 of those boxes to the storage room. , according to the indictment. On June 2, 2022, Attorney 1 checked the boxes in the storage room and found 38 classified files and set them aside in a folder to turn over to federal investigators.
After Attorney 1 finished sealing the case with the documents, Nauta took the attorney to meet Trump in the Mar-a-Lago dining room, according to the indictment. After the attorney confirmed his search for the boxes in the storage area, Trump told him, “Did you find anything? …Is it bad? GOOD?”
Trump and Lawyer 1 discussed what to do with the file and whether the lawyer should take them to his hotel and put them in a safe deposit box, according to the indictment.
“During this conversation, Trump made a snatching motion, as counsel Trump 1 recalled,” the indictment reads. “He made a funny move like – well, why don’t you take them with you to your hotel and if there’s something really bad about it, like, you know, rip it off” , recalled the conversation, as stated in the indictment. “And that’s the motion he made. He didn’t say that.
On the evening of June 2, 2022, Attorney 1 contacted the Department of Justice and requested that an FBI agent meet with him at Mar-a-Lago the next day to retrieve classified documents in response to the subpoena.
However, unsatisfied with the response, the Justice Department obtained a search warrant based on CCTV of the documents moved to Trump’s residence and led an FBI raid on the Palm Beach estate and club last August, when agents discovered 102 additional government documents containing national defense, weapons and nuclear information still on his property.
The seizure of those records, which Trump removed from the White House when he left office in January 2021, form the basis of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s criminal case, as well as the obstruction charge. .
In the indictment, Trump is accused of deliberately keeping documents with classified marks at his Palm Beach estate. He also cites two occasions in the summer of 2021 when the former president allegedly shared classified information about a Department of Defense plan to attack a foreign country with a writer, editor and two staff from his Bedminster. Club in New Jersey. He is also accused of showing a classified map of a US military operation to a representative of his political action committee. But Trump’s sharing of this sensitive information is not among the 31 counts alleging violations of the Espionage Act.
“The classified documents that Trump stored in the boxes included information on the defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and foreign countries; US nuclear programs; the potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation for a foreign attack,” according to the indictment. He noted that the former president had stored them in various places in Mar-a-Lago, including a ballroom, bathroom and shower, office, his bedroom and a storage room.