Two employees at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort moved boxes of papers around the property a day before FBI agents and a federal prosecutor visited in their effort to recover classified documents, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
The Washington Post first reported that a maintenance employee at the Florida club told federal prosecutors he saw Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, moving the boxes on June 2, 2022, into a storage area before he offered to help without knowing what the boxes contained. That same day, a lawyer for Trump contacted the Justice Department and said DOJ officials could come to Mar-a-Lago to pick up classified files, people familiar with the investigation told the newspaper.
Jay Bratt, a top prosecutor for the Justice Department, traveled to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 and was handed a batch of classified files and a signed letter attesting that a search had been carried out for any other such material but that none had been found, The New York Times added. But two months later, on Aug. 8, the FBI executed a search warrant on the property amid concerns that sensitive documents remained at the Trump estate and seized more than 100 other classified files in a storage area and in Trump’s office.
The revelation adds new context to Trump’s behavior surrounding the classified files and potentially broadens the timeline for any potential criminality and obstruction. The Post added that prosecutors have also gathered evidence that Trump’s team had conducted a “dress rehearsal” for moving files he wanted to keep.
The latest reports come at a pivotal time in the investigation.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is nearly finished collecting testimony and evidence after speaking with top aides to the former president and maids and maintenance staff at the Florida estate, which serves as Trump’s residence and is also a private club. And the Post reported last month that federal investigators have gathered evidence Trump may have sifted through boxes of documents after receiving a subpoena to return them.
Trump’s lawyers also wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland this week requesting a meeting to discuss the probe, claiming it was an “ongoing injustice” centered on baseless claims.
Prosecutors have reportedly homed in on whether Trump attempted to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the files. The saga went on for months after the National Archives attempted to recover documents missing from his White House tenure, and the Justice Department eventually sent agents to Florida with a subpoena to recover the files. The recovery culminated in the bombastic FBI search on Aug. 8.
Some in Trump’s orbit have reportedly been preparing for an indictment, which could present serious legal peril for the former president. He lambasted the ongoing probe during a CNN town hall-style event earlier this month but also appeared to claim he was allowed to take anything he wanted when he left the White House in January 2021.
“I took the documents; I’m allowed to,” he said during the live event. He later added that when he left Washington he had “boxes lined up on the sidewalk.”
“Everybody knew we were taking those boxes,” Trump said.
Several other investigations into his behavior after his loss of the 2020 election are ongoing, including his effort to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia.