Trump documents lawsuit could put resort workers on witness stand, sources say

By | November 10, 2023

West Palm Beach, Florida

A plumber, a housekeeper, a driver and a carpenter are among the Mar-a-Lago staff and contractors that federal prosecutors could call to testify against former President Donald Trump and his two co-defendants at their trial. upcoming criminal trial in Floridaaccording to several people close to the investigation.

CNN has painted a comprehensive picture of how prosecutors are structuring their case against Trump for his mishandling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

While some of the witnesses who could be called to testify are from Trump’s inner circle, including his business career, as a political candidate and his time in the White House, other potential witnesses are types of workers rarely noticed by Mar-a. -The rich guests of Lago, according to sources.

Other likely witnesses also include Trump’s Secret Service agents, former intelligence officials, as well as people who were in the room with Trump when he was repeatedly captured. audio recordings referring to a military document on potential plans to bomb Iran, according to the sources.

But the low-level workers who were the eyes and ears of Mar-a-Lago, if called to testify, could offer the public a new level of insight into the exclusive club and Trump’s approach to it. sensitive national security information since he left office. Some of them are still employed at Mar-a-Lago.

After this story was published by Trump replied on social media, acknowledging that various people had seen papers and boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

“Of course they did!” These may be boxes etc. which were openly and clearly brought from the White House, as is my right under the Presidential Records Act.

The Presidential Records Act clearly states that White House records relating to governmental affairs are public property that must be transferred to the National Archives when the president and vice president leave office.

Currently, the trial is scheduled to begin in Florida in May, well before the 2024 presidential election. But the federal judge presiding over the case, Aileen Cannon, is considering moving the trial until after the election, potentially burying details about Trump’s behavior. Trump until after voters went to the polls.

All told, prosecutors could use these witnesses to explain to a jury the environment of freedom presided over by Trump after he left the White House. Potential witnesses have already spoken — sometimes multiple times — to federal investigators in detail about the level of security at the Mar-a-Lago resort, including how boxes of documents were kept there and whether they were visible or could have been consulted by visitors. to the property.

A spokesperson for the special prosecutor’s office declined to comment for this story. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Some witnesses told investigators that what they saw at Mar-a-Lago caught their attention and seemed unusual, out of place or potentially suspicious.

A South Florida carpenter, for example, installed crown molding in Trump’s bedroom in February 2022 and noticed newspapers, according to three sources who spoke to CNN about what he told investigators. Although the pile of papers he saw may have been classified, the carpenter wasn’t entirely clear on what he noticed scattered around the property.

“He thinks he saw things, but he doesn’t know what they were. He ultimately told investigators that he thought what he saw could be a movie prop,” according to a source close to the ‘investigation.

This photo from the U.S. Department of Justice shows classified intelligence documents found during the search at Mar-a-Lago.  On the left is a filing chest made by Sligh Furniture.  On the right, the cover of Time magazine from March 4, 2019.

A housekeeper who cleaned Trump’s suite, a plumber who worked at the property a few days a week for years and several other maintenance workers are also among potential witnesses, the sources said. Some workers may not be called to testify by prosecutors handling the case, and may not even have noticed boxes or papers around the property, according to sources close to the investigation.

Yet prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith made clear in their June indictment against Trump that lax security once visitors are inside the Mar-a-Lago resort is a problem. which they intend to highlight in front of a jury.

“Mar-a-Lago was an active social club that, between January 2021 and August 2022, hosted events for tens of thousands of members and guests,” including movie premieres, weddings and collections of funds, the indictment states.

A driver was questioned by investigators about powerful businessmen, including foreigners, who had visited the club as VIP guests, according to a source. For example, the driver described transporting around Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt, who could also be called as a witness.

Pratt visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left office, and the former president shared sensitive information with Pratt regarding U.S. nuclear submarines, two sources told CNN. This detail has already been reported by ABC News. This incident is not one of the cases of mishandling of national security information that Trump is accused of.

CNN has contacted Pratt’s representative.

In their June indictment, prosecutors noted that Mar-a-Lago has 25 rooms, two ballrooms, a spa, a gift shop, offices, a swimming pool and exercise facilities. More than 150 workers – from temporary workers to full-time employees – are busy.

This context will likely come to life through the testimony of witnesses at trial.

Prosecutors say the club was not a place where classified materials could legally be stored, possessed, examined, displayed or even discussed after January 2021, making the presence of people without security clearance a security risk national.

Trump is accused of mishandling 32 national security files — most of which are classified — that he kept after the presidency, largely in boxes at Mar-a-Lago. He is also accused of working with his two co-defendants – Walt Nauta, his body man, and Carlos De Oliveira, a valet turned club property manager – to try to hide certain boxes from the federal government and delete security footage of the boxes being moved.

In recent court proceedings, prosecutors have publicly identified a few possible witnesses, including a club receptionist, the maintenance manager and a personal aide to Trump.

Some of the people CNN identified as possible witnesses are longtime Trump staffers who live in South Florida and who heard by word of mouth about Trump staffers’ focus on trying to suppress security footage .

In this aerial view, former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen September 14, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Many of the club’s former and current employees still remain in regular contact and relayed news of the FBI’s search of the complex to one another when it took place in August 2022. Prior to that, several of them had been approached by federal investigators for initial reasons. interviews. Some of them had additional interviews with prosecutors and appeared before a grand jury.

Jim Trusty, a lawyer who stopped representing the former president in the documents case after Trump’s indictment, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source” Thursday that a lot of “salt of the earth, good people, hard-working people in the Mar- a-Lago” were “aggressively” intimidated by the Justice Department and the FBI.

“This is the kind of thing where, Kaitlan, you can go through Mar-a-Lago, go to the beach and get a subpoena,” Trusty said.

Federal investigators who delved into Mar-a-Lago salaries have angered the former president, who winters at the Florida property and regularly takes photos with club guests. For example, when the maid who cleaned his bedroom was asked to speak with investigators, Trump’s response was “ballistic,” a source told CNN.

A key witness, Yuscil Taveras, recently resigned from his job at the club as IT director as opening day of South Florida’s winter season approached, according to two sources who spoke to CNN. Taveras is identified in the indictment as “Trump Employee 4” and was publicly revealed having received an advantageous offer prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

Still, Trump did not know that he had continued to work at the club after his split from a lawyer hired by Trump this summer, and the former president was unhappy to learn that Taveras still worked there, the sources said.

An attorney for Taveras declined to comment.

This story has been updated with Trump’s response on Truth Social to CNN’s reporting.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes, Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken, Daniel Medina, Piper Hudspeth Blackburn and Denise Royal contributed to this report.

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