In a significant development, former President Donald Trump has been charged with additional counts of willful retention of national defense information and obstruction as part of a superseding indictment arising from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s ongoing investigation into his alleged improper retention of classified records. The Justice Department released a statement on Thursday, announcing the indictment that also adds one new defendant and four charges to the prior indictment filed against Trump and Waltine Nauta.
The newly added defendant, Carlos de Oliveira of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has been implicated in the obstruction conspiracy charged in the original indictment. Furthermore, Trump, De Oliveira, and Nauta are now facing two additional obstruction counts based on allegations that they attempted to delete surveillance video footage at The Mar-a-Lago Club during the summer of 2022.
One striking element of the indictment is De Oliveira’s reported statement to an unnamed Trump employee that “‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted.” The employee refused to comply, citing a lack of knowledge and authorization to perform such an action. Instead, De Oliveira was instructed to approach another employee, a supervisor of security for Trump’s business organization, to pursue the deletion request.
The indictment comes as the latest escalation in the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November 2022 to look into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago residence. The investigation gained momentum following an unprecedented search of Trump’s private residence by the FBI in August 2022.
The controversy surrounding Trump’s retention of presidential records began when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) informed Congress in February 2022 that the former president had taken 15 boxes of presidential records to his personal residence in Florida. Within those boxes, NARA discovered items marked as classified national security information and official correspondence between Trump and foreign heads of state. Consequently, NARA referred the matter to the Justice Department, initiating the ongoing investigation.
Interestingly, the issue of classified records extends beyond Trump’s case. Similar records were discovered in President Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center last year, stemming from his time as vice president during the Obama administration and his tenure in the U.S. Senate. Additionally, classified records were found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana. The Justice Department concluded its investigation into Pence and confirmed that he will not face charges.
The investigation into Biden’s records retention, however, remains uncertain, as the status of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s inquiry is currently unclear.
In response to the new charges against Trump, a spokesperson from his campaign has accused the Biden administration and the Justice Department of perpetuating a “desperate and flailing attempt” to harass the former president and those associated with him. The spokesperson dismissed the charges as part of an “illegal witch hunt” aimed at undermining Trump and potentially affecting future elections.