Shortly before the FBI served a search warrant on failed, one-term, twice-impeached former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, a Trump employee says he was ordered to move classified documents to the ex-president’s residence at the Florida property, according to a report from The Washington Post.
A Trump employee has told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with security-camera footage — offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material.
The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of the Florida residence and private club, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records or mishandling classified information.
The Post also notes after Trump received a subpoena in May for any and all classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president suddenly decided it was time to move the boxes of papers, which certainly indicates an attempt to obstruct justice and hide evidence of his crime.
The first time he was interviewed, the witness said he knew nothing about any documents Trump might have illegally taken when he left office. He also denied having handled him. But when he was interviewed a second time, the witness admitted he had been untruthful.
The witness is now considered a key part of the Mar-a-Lago investigation, these people said, offering details about the former president’s alleged actions and instructions to subordinates that could have been an attempt to thwart federal officials’ demands for the return of classified and government documents.
A filing the Justice Department made Wednesday to the Supreme Court seems to confirm the cooperation of a witness inside the former president’s orbit:
“The FBI uncovered evidence that the response to the grand jury subpoena was incomplete, that additional classified documents likely remained at Mar-a-Lago, and that efforts had likely been taken to obstruct the investigation.”
If convicted under the Espionage Act for taking the classified documents, Trump could receive up to 33 years in prison, Business Insider has reported:
Former President Donald Trump could receive up to 33 years in prison if he is charged and convicted of violating three federal laws following the FBI’s search at his Mar-a-Lago residence, legal experts say.
The search warrant revealed that federal authorities were looking for evidence to see if Trump violated the Espionage Act, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The Justice Department is also investigating whether Trump violated two other criminal statutes by attempting to conceal or remove records, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years, and by attempting to damage, alter, or falsify records, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Rather than admit he made a mistake in taking the documents, Trump has claimed they belonged to him and he had every right to take then when he left the White House.