September 25, 2023

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Iran war plans, deleting security footage, a third defendant: Key takeaways from new Trump …

Donald Trumphas been hit with new charges in the classified documents case, ramping up the former president’s legal problems as he takes a third run at the White House in 2024.

In a 60-page revised indictment unveiled on Thursday, the former president is charged with three new counts, including one of wilful retention of defence information and two of obstruction.

In total, the twice-impeached president is now facing 40 charges in the case after he was originally indicted on 37 counts last month.

Prosecutors have now included a third defendant in the case: Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager of Mar-a-Lago.

According to the prosecutors, Mr De Oliveira collaborated with Mr Trump and his valet, Walt Nauta, in a scheme to hide and withhold security footage from investigators.

Mr Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing, with a spokesperson dismissing the latest charges outright, labeling them as “nothing more than a continued desperate and ineffective attempt” by the Joe Biden administration “to harass president Trump and those around him” and influence the upcoming 2024 presidential race.

Here’s the key takeaways about the latest charges against Mr Trump in the classified documents case:

Deleted security footage

According to the new superseding indictment, Mr Trump allegedly demanded that his staffers delete security camera footage at the Mar-a-Lago Club after investigators made a visit in June 2022 to collect classified documents he took with him after he left the White House.

In late June 2022, Mr De Oliveira allegedly took another employee to a small room known as an “audio closet” and asked him to keep the conversation between the two of them. He then told the employee “that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted”.

When the unnamed employee, identified as Employee 4 in the documents, said he would not know how to do that, Mr De Oliveira insisted the “boss” wanted it done, and asked: “What are we going to do?”

Mishandling of Iran attack plan

Among the three new charges against Mr Trump is a new count – his 32nd – for retaining national defence information.

This new charge is about a classified document described as a top secret “presentation concerning military activity in a foreign country”.

This document is believed to be a plan of attack on Iran which a leaked audio previously revealed Mr Trump discussing in a meeting with biographers and staffers at his Bedminster, New Jersey resort.

CNN plays tape of Trump appearing to show off classified military documents

During the meeting in July 2021, Mr Trump allegedly displayed a certain document to the writer and publisher of the memoir of his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Although the initial indictment mentioned the specifics of the document and the meeting, no charges were previously linked to this incident until now.

The former president had returned that document to the government on 17 January 2022, almost a year after he left office, according to the indictment.

Mr Trump has previously denied retaining the documents, instead claiming the papers he was referring to in the audio were merely “news clippings”. Mr Trump denies that he ever possessed a secret document about attacking Iran.

Last-minute change of travel plans

Mr Nauta, Mr Trump’s long-time valet who was allegedly part of plans to conceal the security footage from investigators, changed his plans to travel with Mr Trump to Illinois at the last minute on the day prosecutors served the Trump Organization with the final version of the subpoena, according to the indictment,

Instead, he allegedly travelled to Florida to talk to other employees of Mr Trump about deleting the security footage. 

Prosecutors say he contacted the director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago, as well as another worker at the club, and disclosed to the latter that his purpose in visiting was to discuss how long the security footage is stored.

According to the indictment, Mr Nauta seemed to conceal the true purpose of his trip to Mar-a-Lago by informing others that he was going there for different reasons.

The updated indictment against former President Donald Trump, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira is photographed Thursday

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Nauta has now been charged with conspiring with Mr De Oliveira to obstruct justice by participating in the efforts to have the surveillance footgae deleted. Mr Trump has been hit with another count of obstruction of justice for asking for the footage to be deleted.

The fresh obstruction-of-justice charges each come with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the charge for willfully retaining national defence secrets holds a potential penalty of up to 10 years behind bars.

Mr Trump and Mr Nauta were initially indicted together in June and have both pleaded not guilty to those charges.

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