Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Hugo Lowell in Washington

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago co-defendant seeks dismissal of charges in documents case

Man wearing blue suit and tie steps out of car
Carlos De Oliveira arrives at the Alto Lee Adams Sr US courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, on 10 August 2023. Photograph: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP/Getty Images

Lawyers for Donald Trump’s second co-defendant in the criminal case involving his retention of classified documents have asked a federal judge to throw out the parts of the indictment charging him with conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI.

Carlos De Oliveira, who worked as the maintenance chief at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, was charged last year with taking part in an alleged effort to delete security footage of boxes containing classified documents being moved out of a storage room to be hidden.

In a 19-page court filing on Thursday, lawyers for De Oliveira argued that the specific obstruction counts he was charged with should be tossed because De Oliveira was not aware that a grand jury subpoena had been issued for the footage, or of the compliance obligations the subpoena required.

The filing also asked the judge to force special counsel prosecutors to produce a more detailed breakdown of the nature of the obstruction charges against him, ahead of a potential trial, in the event the motion to dismiss was denied, and to schedule a hearing on the matter.

De Oliveira’s lawyers are likely to face an uphill struggle to toss the charges, in large part because the filing raised arguments about facts in the case, which is left up to a jury, as opposed to issues of law, where the judge has discretion to decide legal standards.

The request might also not be immediately resolved. The presiding US district judge, Aileen Cannon, could take the filing “under advisement” and only make a decision when a jury is seated. Were she to dismiss the charges then, it could prevent prosecutors from challenging such a ruling.

In the superseding indictment filed last year in federal district court in Florida, prosecutors alleged that De Oliveira participated in an effort to conceal the attempt by Trump to retain classified documents for which the government had issued a subpoena seeking their return.

The surveillance footage has long been considered key to the case because it allegedly shows Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, removing boxes from the storage room just before Trump’s lawyer was scheduled to go through the boxes and pick out any classified materials to comply with the subpoena.

The surveillance tapes were ultimately handed over to the government as the subpoena required. But the episode became of special interest to prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, who regarded it as an attempt to obstruct the criminal investigation.

According to the indictment, Trump appeared to instruct Nauta to have the tapes destroyed. Nauta then enlisted the help of De Oliveira, and they walked to a security booth where the camera angles were displayed on monitors before walking down to the cameras and pointing them out with flashlights.

The following week, De Oliveira asked the director of IT at Mar-a-Lago, described as “Trump Employee 4” but understood to be identified as Yuscil Taveras, how long surveillance footage was stored for and then told him “the boss” wanted the server deleted.

When Taveras replied that he did not know how to delete the server and suggested De Oliveira ask the security supervisor at the Trump Organization, De Olivera again insisted that “the boss” wanted the server deleted, the indictment said.

The motion to dismiss for De Oliveira broadly rested on two arguments: that he could not have obstructed justice because he was unaware of the subpoena and its compliance obligations, and that his denial to the FBI about moving boxes in a voluntary interview was misconstrued.

On the allegation about the boss wanting the tapes deleted, De Oliveira’s lawyers wrote: “That interaction fails to support the allegations of obstruction ... that Mr De Oliveira knew that a subpoena had been issued, that the data in question was responsive to the subpoena.”

And on the allegation about lying to FBI, De Oliveira’s lawyers contended De Oliveira was not sure what exactly prosecutors were asking about when he told agents he did not know about boxes being moved into Mar-a-Lago and where items would have been stored.

“Mr De Oliveira’s point – obviously – was that he had no real involvement in that move and had no idea what went where once it arrived at Mar-a-Lago, and he had no knowledge of classified documents, which, as stated in count 42, was what the agent told Mr De Oliveira the FBI was investigating,” the filing said.

Lawyers for Trump were also due on Thursday to file motions to dismiss the charges, including one on the grounds of presidential immunity and another claiming selective and vindictive prosecution, although the filings are not expected to be public until redaction requests are litigated.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.