An employee of former President Donald Trump has told the FBI about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago "at the specific direction of the former president" before federal agents searched the Florida club on Aug. 8 and discovered 103 classified documents, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the investigation. The witness initially denied handling sensitive documents or boxes that may contain such files, but that story "changed dramatically" in follow-up interviews as the FBI obtained surveillance footage and other evidence, the Post reports.
"The employee who was working at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department," the Post reports. "Within the Justice Department and FBI, the witness's account has been a closely held secret," both "to keep the information they have gathered so far under wraps" but also to shield the witness from "harassment or threats from Trump supporters."
Hours after the Post published its article, The New York Times reported that "a long-serving aide" to Trump named Walt Nauta was captured on security camera footage moving boxes from the Mar-a-Lago storage room "before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents the former president had in his possession." Nauta has answered investigators' questions in multiple Justice Department interviews but "is not formally cooperating with the government's investigation," the Times reports.
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It is not clear if Nauta is the Trump employee in the Post article, the Times notes, "and a person familiar with the matter and with Mr. Trump's orbit said it could be a different staff member." In a court filing, the Justice Department has said it worked with "multiple civilian witnesses" before obtaining its Mar-a-Lago search warrant. "Within Trump's orbit, there have been months of dueling accusations and theories about who may be cooperating with the federal government," the Post reports.
These new details reveal that the Justice Department has both testimony from witnesses who worked for and took direction from Trump, and security footage that backs up their accounts, the Post reports. That evidence helped convince the Justice Department it needed to search Mar-a-Lago.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to answer questions about the reports but told the Post and the Times that the Justice Department is leaking "misleading and false information to partisan allies in the Fake News," in "an overt and illegal act of intimidation and tampering."
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