A man who says he worked at Mar-a-Lago is going public with his recollection of events leading up to the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida residence over the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.

In a televised interview with CNN, Brian Butler said he helped Trump aide Walt Nauta load about 10 to 15 boxes onto Trump’s plane at the West Palm Beach airport near his resort in June 2022, when representatives from the Justice Department were meeting with Trump and his attorneys about unreturned classified material.

Butler, whom CNN identified as “Trump Employee 5” in an indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith, said in the interview that aired Monday that the boxes were “the boxes that were in the indictment, the white banker’s boxes,” referring to photos in the federal indictment.

Butler, who told CNN that he had worked at Trump’s Florida resort for two decades, declined a request for comment Monday. NBC News has not independently confirmed Butler’s identity as “Trump Employee 5,” one of the unnamed employees in the indictment.

This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records being stored on the stage in the White and Gold Ballroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is facing 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents according to an indictment unsealed Friday, June 9, 2023. (Justice Department via AP)
Boxes of records being stored on the stage in the White and Gold Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., in an image in the indictment against former President Donald Trump.Justice Department via AP

Butler said in the interview that he was unaware that potentially classified material were in the boxes.

“I had no clue. I mean, we were just taking them out of the Escalade, piling them up,” Butler told CNN, adding that he told federal investigators about the movement of boxes. “I remember they were all stacked on top of each other, and then we’re lifting them up to the pilots.”

Three months after the FBI search, Butler left his job as a club valet and manager at Mar-a-Lago in part because of a desire to move on, CNN reported.

When asked why he decided to speak out now, Butler called the past year a “roller coaster” and said he hoped that by going public “at least I can move on with my life and get over this.”

“Instead of just waiting for it to just come out, I think it’s better that I get to at least say what happened then it coming out in the news, people calling me, like, crazy,” he said.

Butler said that he would be willing to testify during a trial.

The indictment alleged that in June 2022, Mar-a-Lago maintenance supervisor Carlos De Oliveira asked “Trump Employee 5” not to tell anyone about a trip by Nauta because Nauta “wanted the trip to remain secret.”

The indictment also alleged that De Oliveira told the employee that “Nauta wanted De Oliveira to talk to Trump Employee 4 to see how long camera footage was stored.”

NBC News has reported that “Employee 4” is Yuscil Taveras, and part of the superseding indictment suggests that Taveras may be cooperating with prosecutors. Prosecutors described a conversation in which they said De Oliveira told Taveras “that ‘the boss’ wanted the server deleted.”

The superseding indictment accused Trump of being part of a scheme to delete security video at Mar-a-Lago.

Neither De Oliveira’s legal team nor the Trump campaign immediately responded to requests for comment Monday about Butler’s interview. Nauta’s legal team and the office of Smith, the special counsel, declined to comment.

CNN reported that a lawyer for Trump declined to comment. A lawyer for De Oliveira told CNN, “We look forward to hearing more about Mr. Butler’s version of events when he is under oath and subject to penalty of perjury in the courtroom where that belongs, and we decline to try this case in the media.”

The charges against Trump include willful retention of national defense information. He and his two co-defendants — Nauta and De Oliveira — were also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The indictment was based in part on classified documents discovered when FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira have all pleaded not guilty. The judge presiding over the case originally set the trial to start on May 20, though it is expected to be delayed.

Special counsel Robert Hur is set to testify Tuesday before a Republican-led House panel in a separate classified documents probe. Hur last month declined to prosecute President Joe Biden over his handling of classified material.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *