By Jack Phillips
Former President Donald Trump categorically denied that he ordered the deletion of security footage at his Mar-a-Lago resort, coming after special counsel Jack Smith made that allegation as he added three new charges against the former commander-in-chief.
Last week, the special counsel charged Mr. Trump with willful retention of national defense information and two charges in connection to the claims that he allegedly told a Mar-a-Lago worker to delete security tapes to prevent a grand jury from seeing them. In that filing, the Department of Justice (DOJ) named Mar-a-Lago staffer Carlos De Oliveira as a third defendant in the complaint.
But on July 30, the former president denied those new charges. What the DOJ is doing now, he claimed, is tantamount to election interference ahead of the 2024 contest.
“Mar-a-Lago security tapes were not deleted,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social. “They were voluntarily handed over to the thugs, headed up by deranged Jack Smith. We did not even go to court to stop them from getting these tapes. I never told anybody to delete them. Prosecutorial fiction & misconduct! Election interference!”
The new claims are the “same as the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX,” he wrote in a second post.
“They knowingly accuse you of a fake crime, a crime that they actually make up, you fight these false charges hard, and they try and get you on ‘obstruction,’” Mr. Trump wrote. “We are dealing with sick and evil people!”
In the latest court filings, DOJ prosecutors allege that Mr. De Oliveira told another Mar-a-Lago employee that “the boss” wanted a server “deleted” on June 27, 2022. That came about two months before FBI agents raided the Palm Beach resort owned by the 45th president, uncovering allegedly classified documents at a storage area.
Mr. Trump is expected to go to trial for the classified documents case next May, while he’s also facing a potential indictment from another federal investigation headed by Mr. Smith’s office. He also faces possible criminal charges in Fulton County, Georgia, and he was indicted in yet another case by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, in connection to payments that he made during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Last week’s indictment increases the total number of charges in the classified materials case to 40. It also added a charge based on military documents that Mr. Trump allegedly possessed.
His attorney and spokeswoman, Alina Habba, told Fox News in a July 30 interview that Mr. Trump never directed an employee to delete tapes.
“When he has his turn in court, and when we get to file our papers, you will see that every single video, every single surveillance tape that was requested was turned over,” Ms. Habba said. “If President Trump didn’t want something turned over, I assure you, that is something that could have been done. But he never would act like that. He is the most ethical American I know.
“The new superseding indictment that came out, which they tried to get another headline for President Trump, was facts that said that President Trump did what? What was the obstruction of justice because no tapes were deleted. He turned them over; he cooperated as he always does. But they would like the American public to believe in these bogus indictments that there are some facts that say that President Trump was obstructing justice.”
Mr. Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong, pleading not guilty to the classified documents charges. He has said that as president, he had the right to take such documents and that the charges against him are politically motivated.
Polls show that Mr. Trump is by far the front-runner among Republican candidates, beating out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a recent Marquette survey by more than 20 percentage points. An Economist/YouGov poll shows a more stark difference, with Mr. Trump having 54 percent to Mr. DeSantis’s 18 percent in the Republican contest.
On July 29, Mr. Trump appeared at a large rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, and asked the crowd whether he should appear in Republican presidential debates. The first debate is slated for next month, and the former president has suggested that he won’t participate.
“Am I going to stand up there with candidates who are zero, one, two, three percent, maybe four in the polls … and have them ask me hostile questions?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd. “And if I don’t go to the debate … they say that ratings are going to be really bad.
“But now put on your political cap, right? We have to save our country. We have to win. Should I get up there with 10 or 12 hostile people and a hostile network and be abused with terrible accusations?
“We’ll see what happens.”