Trump and valet plead not guilty to additional classified document charges

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Former US President Donald Trump plays in the professional-amateur round of the LIV Golf Bedminster golf tournament on August 10, 2023 [Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports via Reuters]

The additional charges stem from accusations that Trump tried to suppress subpoenaed security camera footage.

Former United States President Donald Trump and his valet Walt Nauta have entered pleas of not guilty in a Florida federal court, in response to additional charges made in a case about the alleged mishandling of classified documents.

A lawyer for Trump entered the plea on his behalf on Thursday, as the former president had previously waived his right to attend the hearing.

Nauta, meanwhile, attended the hearing in person, held in the Fort Pierce courtroom of US Magistrate Judge Shaniek Mills Maynard.

Originally, Trump faced 37 charges, and Nauta six, for retaining classified documents without authorisation and concealing them from federal authorities.

But on July 27, Special Counsel Jack Smith announced an updated indictment, with new charges and a new defendant: Carlos De Oliveira, a property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

A bald man, Walt Nauta, descends the courthouse steps with his lawyer Sasha Dadan, where a vehicle awaits them.
Trump valet Walt Nauta, second from left, leaves the Alto Lee Adams Sr Courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, with his lawyer on August 10 [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Two of the new charges stem from an incident in which Trump allegedly ordered his employees to delete security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago, after a grand jury subpoenaed the tapes.

In the updated indictment, prosecutors describe how Trump allegedly dispatched Nauta to Palm Beach to meet with Oliveira, who then told another Mar-a-Lago employee that “the boss” wanted the surveillance server wiped.

The third new charge pertains to Trump alone. It relates to audio of Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he showed onlookers a classified document outlining a “plan of attack” against Iran that he acknowledged was “highly classified”.

The recording also appears to capture Trump admitting he had not declassified the document before he showed it to the golf club visitors.

“See, as president I could have declassified it,” he said in the transcript. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

Together, the three new charges bring Trump’s total in the classified documents case to 40.

A close-up of a man in a dark suit and tie, as he walks up the steps to a courthouse.
Carlos De Oliveira, a property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, arrives at court in Fort Pierce, Florida, on August 10 [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Oliveira was present alongside Nauta at Thursday’s hearing, but because he had not yet secured a lawyer certified to practice in Florida, he has not yet entered a plea. As a result, Judge Mills Maynard pushed back Oliveira’s arraignment to Tuesday.

The classified documents case is one of three criminal indictments Trump is set to confront, though he has denied wrongdoing on all counts.

Trump became the first US president to face criminal charges in April, when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed 34 state-level felony counts against the ex-president for allegedly falsifying business records.

Prosecutors in that case accused Trump of attempting to conceal “damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters” by paying off several individuals, including an adult film actor, who had information about his extra-marital affairs.

The indictment in the classified documents case came in June. It marked the first federal criminal charges against Trump.

Most recently, on August 1, Trump faced another federal criminal indictment, this time for interference in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump, the Republican incumbent at the time, was accused of trying to subvert his loss to Democrat Joe Biden by releasing false information, pursuing pressure campaigns against election officials and assembling “fake electors” to cast Electoral College votes in his favour.

Judge Aileen Cannon has set the trial date for the classified documents case on May 20, shortly before the Republican National Convention in June. The convention names the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential race, in which Trump is campaigning for a second term.

He is currently the Republican frontrunner, leading a crowded field of candidates by a wide margin.

Also on Thursday, prosecutors in the election interference case requested Trump’s trial for those charges be held on January 2. That trial date, however, has yet to be set.

Trump, meanwhile, spent Thursday at his Bedminster golf course, where he played in a professional-amateur round of a local tournament.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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