UNITED STATES NEWS

Mar-a-Lago manager De Oliveira makes his first court appearance in Trump’s classified documents case

Jul 30, 2023, 9:11 PM | Updated: Jul 31, 2023, 2:28 pm

MIAMI (AP) — The property manager of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate made his first court appearance on Monday facing charges in the classified documents case against the former president, but he did not enter a plea because he has not found a Florida-based attorney to represent him.

Carlos De Oliveira is accused of scheming with Trump to try to delete security footage sought by investigators probing the former president’s hoarding of classified documents at his Palm Beach club. De Oliveira was added last week to the indictment with Trump and the ex-president’s valet, Walt Nauta, and faces charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice and lying to investigators.

De Oliveira, wearing a blue suit and tie, answered questions from a magistrate judge during a brief hearing in Miami federal court. He was ordered to turn over his passport and sign an agreement to pay $100,000 if he doesn’t return to court. He was represented by Washington, D.C.-based attorney John Irving, but under court rules he needs local counsel to proceed with his arraignment, which was scheduled for Aug. 10 in Fort Pierce.

Irving told reporters after the hearing that he looks forward to seeing what potential evidence the Justice Department has. He declined to comment about whether De Oliveira has been asked to testify against Trump.

De Oliveira’s court appearance comes as Trump braces for possible charges stemming from investigations into his efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

Trump, the early front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, has been informed he’s a target of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and Trump’s lawyers met with Smith’s team last week. A Georgia prosecutor is also expected to seek a grand jury indictment in the coming weeks in her investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to subvert his election loss there.

Trump, who pleaded not guilty in June in the documents case, has denied any wrongdoing. He posted on his Truth Social platform last week that the Mar-a-Lago security tapes were voluntarily handed over to investigators and that he was told the tapes were not “deleted in any way, shape or form.”

Prosecutors have not alleged that security footage was actually deleted or kept from investigators.

Nauta has also pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had previously scheduled the trial of Trump and Nauta to begin in May, and it’s unclear whether the addition of De Oliveira to the case may impact the case’s timeline.

The latest indictment, unsealed on Thursday, alleges that Trump tried to have security footage deleted after investigators visited in June 2022 to collect classified documents the former president took with him after he left the White House.

Trump was already facing dozens of felony counts — including willful retention of national defense information — stemming from allegations that he mishandled government secrets that as commander-in-chief he was entrusted to protect. Experts have said the new allegations bolster the special counsel’s case and deepen the former president’s legal jeopardy.

Video from Mar-a-Lago would ultimately become vital to the government’s case because, prosecutors said, it shows Nauta moving boxes in and out of a storage room — an act alleged to have been done at Trump’s direction and in effort to hide records not only only from investigators but also from Trump’s own lawyers.

Days after the Justice Department sent a subpoena for video footage at Mar-a-Lago to the Trump Organization in June 2022, prosecutors say, De Oliveira asked an information technology staffer how long the server retained footage and told the employee “the boss” wanted it deleted. When the employee said he didn’t believe he was able to do that, De Oliveira insisted the “boss” wanted it done, asking, “What are we going to do?”

Shortly after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago and found classified records in the storage room and Trump’s office, prosecutors say, Nauta called a Trump employee and said words to the effect of “someone just wants to make sure Carlos is good.” The indictment says the employee responded that De Oliveira was loyal and wouldn’t do anything to affect his relationship with Trump. That day, the indictment alleges, Trump called De Oliveira directly to say that he would get De Oliveira an attorney.

Prosecutors allege that De Oliveira later lied in interviews with investigators, falsely claiming that he hadn’t even seen boxes moved into Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House.

___

Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press journalist Daniel Kozin in Miami contributed.

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Mar-a-Lago manager De Oliveira makes his first court appearance in Trump’s classified documents case