Here’s how Trump allegedly tried to delete documents footage

Former President Donald Trump arrives at New Orleans International Airport in New Orleans, Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

FILE - An aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. A third defendant has been charged alongside former President Donald Trump and his valet in the classified documents case in Florida, court records show. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

The revised indictment accusing Donald Trump of new crimes over his retention of classified documents after leaving office paints a picture of an elaborate attempt at a coverup as investigators zeroed in on a storage room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Special Counsel Jack Smith details an alleged plan by Trump to conceal from federal agents the way his aides hid and moved boxes of White House files before they could be searched in response to a grand jury subpoena.

The new indictment, filed Thursday, pieces together text messages, phone calls, interviews and video footage to claim that Trump directed two trusted employees last summer to secretly delete surveillance recordings at Mar-a-Lago that would expose the movement of the boxes, many of which contained top-secret documents sought by the government.


Evidence of the alleged attempt to scrub the footage was used by Smith to add further obstruction charges against Trump and co-defendant Waltine “Walt” Nauta, his valet, both of whom were initially charged last month in a 38-count indictment. The U.S. charged for the first time Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos de Oliveira over the role it says he played in the effort. Trump, who has pleaded not guilty, said in a Friday post on social media that his team gave the security tapes to Smith voluntarily and that none of the footage was “deleted in any way, shape, or form.” Nauta’s lawyer declined to comment. A lawyer for De Oliveira, who is set to be arraigned on Monday in Miami, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Here’s what happened last year, according to the government. The boxes May 11, 2022 — Following a search by the National Archives for missing presidential documents, and the opening of a criminal probe by the Justice Department, a federal grand jury issues a subpoena for the return of White House documents with classified markings in Trump’s possession.

May 23 — Trump’s lawyers tell him they need to search for the documents. One of them takes detailed notes, showing the former president saying he doesn’t “want anybody looking” and asking if they could just ignore the subpoena or simply tell the government “we don’t have anything here.” The lawyer notes that Trump complains about Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

May 24 – June 1 — Trump, forced to accept a search by his lawyer, directs Nauta to move 64 boxes from the storage room to Trump’s residence in the days before it takes place. Nauta and De Oliveira move about 30 boxes back to the storage room one day before the search takes place. Trump’s lawyer is kept in the dark about the moves.

June 2 — Trump’s attorney searches the boxes in the storage room and finds 38 relevant documents, which he put in a folder to return to the Justice Department. The next day a Trump lawyer who wasn’t involved in the search certifies that it had been conducted diligently, even though boxes removed from the storage room were never searched.

The footage

June 3 — Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who travel to Mar-a-Lago to collect the classified documents found by Trump’s lawyer observe the existence of surveillance cameras near the storage room.

June 22 — Trump’s lawyer is told by the Justice Department that the government is planning to subpoena all video footage from the estate, including the basement where the storage room is located. The next day, Trump calls De Oliveira and speaks to him for 24 minutes.

June 24 — After Trump’s lawyers receive the subpoena and discusses it with Trump, Nauta gets a text message from a co-worker saying Trump wants to see him. Less than two hours later, Nauta cancels a plan to travel with Trump to Illinois the next day and instead books a trip to Palm Beach. Nauta gives colleagues “inconsistent explanations” for the sudden change, telling a Secret Service agent that he needs to check on a family member.

— 5:02 p.m. — Nauta texts Mar-a-Lago’s director of information technology, asking: “Hey bro you around this weekend”

— 5:05 p.m. — Nauta texts De Oliveira asking: “Hey brother You working today?” After De Oliveira confirms he’s working, Nauta calls him and they speak for two minutes.

— 6:58 p.m. — The Mar-a-Lago IT director responds, saying he’s around if Nauta needs him. Nauta responds: “Sounds good!! Thank you.”

June 25 — De Oliveira instructs a valet not to tell anyone that Nauta is coming, because Nauta “wanted the trip to remain secret.” He tells the valet that Nauta plans to find out “how long camera footage was stored.” When Nauta arrives, he and De Oliveira go to a security guard booth where video is displayed, then walk with a flashlight through a tunnel where the storage room is located “and observed and pointed out surveillance cameras.”

June 27 — It’s Monday, and De Oliveira goes to the IT office to ask the IT director to step outside and talk. — 9:49 a.m. — De Oliveira takes the IT director to a small “audio closet” near a ballroom and says their conversation “should remain between the two of them.” De Oliveira asks about video storage and is advised that such footage is kept on a server for about 45 days. He says “the boss” wants it deleted. The IT director says he can’t do that and advises De Oliveira to speak to a security supervisor at the Trump Organization instead.

— 10:14 a.m. — De Oliveira texts Nauta, who is still in Florida, and then speaks to him on the phone for about one minute.

— 1:06 p.m. — Nauta texts De Oliveira at Mar-a-Lago to say he’s on his way to the resort.

— 1:31 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. — De Oliveira walks through the bushes at the northern edge of the property to meet with Nauta on an adjacent property. He then goes back to the IT office and then back through the bushes to meet again with Nauta.

— 3:55 p.m. — Trump calls De Oliveira and they speak for about 3 1/2 minutes.

The bust

July — The FBI and grand jury obtain and review the surveillance footage showing the movement of the boxes. The footage is used to help secure an unprecedented search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

Aug. 8 — FBI agents execute the warrant and find boxes of White House records stacked in a ballroom and a bathroom. They ultimately discover 102 documents with classified markings, some of which bear the highest possible level of classification. Aug. 25 — After a Trump employee confirms in a Signal chat with Nauta that De Oliveira is “loyal,” Trump personally calls De Oliveira to tell him that he will get him a lawyer.

June 8, 2023 — Trump’s indictment in the documents case becomes public.

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