Two members of Donald Trump’s staff moved boxes of documents just a day before the Department of Justice visited Mar-a-Lago, according to a report.
The files were moved the day before FBI agents and a prosecutor visited the private club in Florida’s Palm Beach. The timing of the move is thought to be suspicious and a sign that obstruction may have taken place, according to The Washington Post.
Mr Trump and his associates are alleged to have conducted a “dress rehearsal” for moving the sensitive files even before getting a subpoena in May last year, The Post noted, citing anonymous sources.
Prosecutors also have evidence indicating that the former president had classified documents in his office in a visible spot and times showed them to other people.
The new information adds more details to the allegations of obstruction discovered by the FBI and Department of Justice and expands the period of time that instances of obstruction may have occurred – from events before the subpoena was issued to the FBI raid on 8 August.
The timing of Mr Trump’s and his staff’s actions are important components in the allegation that the ex-president attempted to keep hundreds of classified documents after he left the presidency on 20 January 2021. These components make up a case which may lead to charges of obstruction of justice or the improper handling of national security information.
The Post previously reported that boxes were moved from a storage area after the office of the former president got a subpoena, the exact timeline of which vital factor in the ongoing probe, the anonymous sources told the paper.
The Trump legal team have shared their possible defence with members of Congress, and they have also attempted to get a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, indicating that they may think that a decision on charges may be nearing.
The grand jury in the case hasn’t convened since 5 May following months of frequent activity in the Washington, DC federal courthouse. It’s the longest break for the jury since December, not long after Mr Garland appointed Jack Smith as Special Counsel to head the investigation.
Mr Smith is also looking Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he continues to falsely claim was fraudulent.
Mr Trump has been chared with falsifying business records in the New York hush-money case involving adult actor Stormy Daniels and he’s also being investigated in Georgia in connection to his efforts to change the election results in the state.
Mr Trump has rejected all allegations in all of the cases.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told the paper that “this is nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against President Trump that is concocted to meddle in an election and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House”.
“Just like all the other fake hoaxes thrown at President Trump, this corrupt effort will also fail,” he added.
Mr Cheung argued that prosecutors are showing “no regard for common decency or key rules that govern the legal system”. He also claimed that the authorities have “harassed anyone and everyone who works [for], has worked [for], or supports Donald Trump”.
“In the course of negotiations over the return of documents, President Trump told the lead DOJ official, ‘anything you need from us, just let us know,’” Mr Cheung added to The Post. “That DOJ rejected this offer of cooperation and conducted a raid on Mar-a-Lago proves that the Biden regime has weaponized the DOJ and FBI.”
The DoJ has said previously that the search at Mar-a-Lago was only done following months of failed efforts to get back all the classified files.
Evidence gathered reportedly reveals that boxes were moved to a storage area on 2 June, before Justice Department attorney Jay Bratt came to Mar-a-Lago alongside agents on 3 June to gather material in connection to the grand jury subpoena in May demanding that all files with classified markings be handed back.
In the evening on 2 June, a Trump lawyer reached out to the Department of Justice saying that they could come to collect documents in connection to the subpoena, prompting the arrival of Mr Bratt and the agents the next day.
Mr Trump’s attorneys handed the officials an envelope with 38 classified files and a signed attestation that a “diligent search” had occurred and that all relevant documents had been handed over.
Mr Bratt and the agents were invited to see the storage room where Trump associates said that boxes had been kept. Court filings by DoJ state that they were told by the Trump lawyer that they weren’t allowed to open the boxes.
More than 100 classified were later found in the office and in the storage area.
John Irving is an attorney representing one of the two staffers who moved the boxes. According to The Post, Mr Irving said the employee didn’t know what was in the boxes and was trying to help Walt Nauta, a Trump valet, who was using a dolly to move several boxes.
“He was seen on Mar-a-Lago security video helping Walt Nauta move boxes into a storage area on June 2, 2022. My client saw Mr. Nauta moving the boxes and volunteered to help him,” Mr Irving told The Post.
The worker helped Mr Nauta pack an SUV the following day, “when former president Trump left for Bedminster for the summer”.
The attorney said the client has cooperated with the authorities and didn’t have “any reason to think that helping to move boxes was at all significant”.
Disclosure reports have revealed that Mr Irving’s law firm is being paid by Mr Trump’s Save America PAC.