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In the latest twist in the dramatic tale of Donald Trump’s possession of classified documents, an employee at Mar-a-Lago drained the resort’s swimming pool last October and flooded a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept, according to a new report out Monday.
Federal prosecutors at the Justice Department have asked at least one witness about the incident, CNN reported, as they obtained surveillance footage to track how White House records were moved around Trump’s Palm Beach residence.
It’s unclear if the room was intentionally flooded or if it was a mistake. Prosecutors are investigating whether there was any attempt by Trump or his associates to obstruct the Justice Department’s investigation after Trump received a subpoena in May 2022 for classified documents.
The latest twist comes as Trump’s lawyers went to the Justice Department on Monday morning to make their case that the government should not charge the former president in connection with his possession of the documents.
Trump attorneys Lindsey Halligan, from left, John Rowley and James Trusty exit the Department of Justice on Monday after meeting with federal prosecutors
Lindsey Halligan, John Rowley and James Trusty spent about two hours at the Justice Department, according to reports, and their meeting included special counsel Jack Smith, who is heading up the federal probe. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco were not present.
After the meeting, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to post a message that seemed to indicate his lawyers had discussed with him the possibilityhe might be indicted.
‘How can DOJ possibly charge me, who did nothing wrong,’ Trump wrote in all capital letters.
Trump has denied any wrong doing and claims to be the victim of a politically-charged investigation led by prosecutors who don’t want to see him make another run for president.
Prosecutors have focused on Trump, his body man Walt Nauta and a maintenance worker who helped Nauta move boxes of classified documents ahead of federal agents searching the property last summer in their investigation.
The maintenance worker is the person who drained the pool that led to the flooding of the IT room where the surveillance footage was held, CNN reported.
A Mar-a-Lago employee drained the resort’s swimming pool and flooded a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept
Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing but took to his Truth Social platform to post a message that seemed to indicate his lawyers had discussed with him the possibility he might be indicted
Under the Presidential Records Act, all documents from a presidential administration are the federal government’s property and go to the National Archives upon the end of a presidency. Trump, it’s been reported, believed they were his property.
Investigators used witnesses’ testimony, security camera footage and other evidence to construct a timeline of what happened and what actions they think Trump took:
- May 2021: National Archives realizes some records from Trump’s presidency are missing
- December 2021: Archives requests the documents from the former president
- January 2022: Archives received 15 boxes of material that had been stored at Mar-a-Lago, some of which were found to contain classified material
- February 2022: The matter is referred to the Justice Department
- May 2022: After several back-and-forths with Trump’s legal team, the Justice Department issues a subpoena for additional records they believe to be in the former president’s Florida home
- Investigators believe after that subpoena arrived, storage boxes, including some containing classified material, were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area, so Trump personally examined some of them
- June 2022: Three FBI agents and one DOJ attorney go to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the additional material. They were given a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents, according to later court filings. That envelope contained 38 records with classification markings, including five papers marked confidential, 16 marked secret and 17 marked top secret.
- August 2022: DOJ applied for a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, citing ‘probable cause’ that additional presidential records and records containing classified information remained at Trump’s Florida home. Court papers show that the original search warrant application showed agents believed that ‘evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.’
- August 8, 2022: FBI agents raid Mar-a-Lago: They recover 18 documents marked as top secret, 54 marked secret, 31 marked as confidential, and 11,179 government documents or photographs that had no classification markings.
Intent is key in the Justice Department’s case. Prosecutors have to be able to show that whatever actions were taken were done to try to hinder or block an investigation.
Surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago that was handed over to the Justice Department showed Nauta and the maintenance worker moving document boxes around the resort around May or June 2022.
Earlier this year Nauta testified to federal prosecutors that he moved boxes at Mar-a-Lago at Trump’s direction after the subpoena was issued and before the August raid on Mar-a-Lago.
Two people helped Nauta, but according to one of their lawyers did not know the details of their task.
At least two dozen people – including Mar-a-Lago staff and those in Trump’s current inner circle – have been subpoenaed in the classified documents investigation, CNN reported in March.
The Justice Department has been investigating potential mishandling of classified material by Trump for about a year.
Garland assigned Smith as special counsel on Nov. 18.
But there are signs its investigation may be wrapping up.
A grand jury has been hearing testimony from dozens of witnesses in recent months at the federal courthouse in downtown Washington.
Walt Nauta, aid to former President Donald Trump, at the far left on Trump Force One, has spoken to investigators
Special Counsel Jack Smith has been leading the Justice Department investigation
Smith is also investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election – the subject of a similar, ongoing inquiry by prosecutors in Atlanta.
New York prosecutors charged Trump earlier this year with falsifying business records.