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Trump documents probe intensifies with subpoenas to employees and inner circle

Prosecutors have asked Trump Organization employees if surveillance footage of Mar-a-Lago could have been tampered with before it was turned over to the FBI in response to a subpoena

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 05 May 2023 20:11 BST
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A Department of Justice investigation into former president Donald Trump is shifting into high gear as prosecutors look to the twice-impeached ex-president’s inner circle for answers on his handling of national defence information after he left office in January 2020.

The department’s probe into whether Mr Trump violated US laws against unlawfully classified documents after his term expired has reportedly expanded to examine the possibility that his associates assisted his efforts to conceal those documents from prosecutors.

Earlier this week, a pair of Trump Organization executives gave evidence before the Washington DC grand jury that has been hearing testimony in the documents probe.

The DOJ prosecutor supervising the probes into Mr Trump, Special Counsel Jack Smith, had issued a round of grand jury subpoenas to Matthew Calamari Sr and his son, Matthew Calamari Jr. The Calamaris are both longtime executives at Mr Trump’s eponymous real estate and hospitality company, where the elder Mr Calamari serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer and his son serves as director of security.

Prosecutors working for Mr Smith are believed to have questioned both men about how the Trump Organization handled surveillance footage which the Department of Justice subpoenaed as part of the ongoing probe into whether Mr Trump unlawfully retained national defence information at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida mansion turned social club where the twice-impeached ex-president maintains his primary residence.

The CCTV camera footage from Mr Trump’s club played a key role in prosecutors’ decision to seek a search warrant for the property last year. According to court documents, investigators used the footage and other evidence to determine that it was likely that Mr Trump had not returned all classified documents in his possession despite having been served with a subpoena compelling him to do so.

Mr Smith’s team has also questioned other Trump Organization employees about the security footage, including how the footage was handled and whether it could have been tampered with before it was handed over to the FBI.

They have also pressed witnesses about a text message from Walt Nauta, a former Navy Chief Petty Officer who served as Mr Trump’s White House valet and has continued working for the ex-president as a civilian. The text message reportedly was sent to the elder Mr Calamari and pertained to the surveillance footage. Prosecutors have also asked about conversations between Mr Nauta and Mr Calamari on the same topic.

Mr Nauta previously told investigators that Mr Trump directed him to move boxes containing classified documents after he was served with a June 2022 subpoena compelling him to turn over any such documents in his possession. But the former White House valet, who is currently on the payroll of Mr Trump’s political action committee, reportedly ceased cooperating with prosecutors after he was told he could face charges if he did not give evidence against Mr Trump.

In his stead, prosecutors have reportedly developed another source of evidence about the ex-president’s handling of documents that he took with him near the end of his time in the White House.

According to The New York Times, prosecutors have elicited cooperation from an unidentified person who has been employed by Mr Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

This insider has reportedly given evidence to prosecutors depicting how Mr Trump stored the boxes in which FBI agents discovered many of the classified documents when executing the search warrant at his property last year.

Specifically, the Times reported that the confidential witness turned over a photograph of the storage room where the boxes were stored.

The use of this previously-unreported witness and the subpoenas for the Calamaris indicate that Mr Smith’s probe is focusing on what Mr Trump may have done after he received the grand jury subpoena at issue last summer.

Besides the Calamaris, prosecutors have reportedly issued subpoenas to four other Mar-a-Lago workers, along with one other person who the Times described as having “visibility into Mr Trump’s thinking” in early 2022, when he returned 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives

The Times also reported that nearly every person employed at Mr Trump’s club has received a subpoena and some who hold “fairly obscure jobs” have been asked to give evidence on more than one occasion.

In addition, one of the subpoenas issued to Mr Trump’s eponymous company pertains to the Saudi-backed golf tour, LIV Golf, which has held tournaments at many of Mr Trump’s golf courses. It’s not known why prosecutors are examining his relationship with the PGA Tour competitor, but it’s possible that Mr Trump’s business is under scrutiny from prosecutors as well.

In a statement, a representative for the ex-president said Mr Smith’s probe is “a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt” that is “concocted to meddle in an election and prevent the American people from returning [Mr Trump] to the White House”.

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