As we await what seems to be the inevitable new indictment of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), this time on concerning involvement in the January 6, 2021 riot, another major development is that Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed an update to the indictment filed earlier on SSAT’s treatment of confidential documents at Mar-a-Lago. One additional charge is that they now seem to have the Top Secret document that SSAT was waving around in front of people who did not have the security clearance to read it.
“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.” …
“Well, with Milley – uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” Trump says, according to the transcript. “They presented me this – this is off the record, but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”
Trump continues: “All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”
The other new item in the indictment is that of covering up a crime and it charges a third person Carlos De Oliveira, who seems to be a low-level employee of SSAT’s Mar-a-Lago resort, with involvement with it.
I doubt that serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) pays much attention to history, even of the period that he lived through, because he seems to have forgotten important lessons from the Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of president Richard Nixon in 1974. One is that it is not the crime that necessarily brings you down, it is the attempted cover up because that act demonstrates that you knew you had committed a crime. The second is don’t try to destroy evidence, because that rarely works. The third is that if you do try to destroy evidence, don’t use bunglers. And the fourth is for God’s sake, beware of recording devices!
Those familiar with the Watergate saga will recall the major role played by the tapes that contained recordings of conversations in the Oval Office. When Judge John Sirica ordered that tapes covering crucial conversations be handed over to the Special Prosecutor and the congressional committee that was investigating the affair, the audio tapes that were delivered had a mysterious gap lasting 18.5 minutes during crucial conversations.
Pressed for an explanation, Nixon’s fiercely loyal personal secretary Rose Mary Woods said that she had accidentally caused the erasure. It turns out that the system was such that it was not easy to do that and it involved the use of one hand and one foot simultaneously. When she was asked to demonstrate how it might have happened, that resulted in what became known as the ‘Rose Mary Stretch’ that was immortalized in this famous photo.
What was worse, forensic analysis of the tapes showed that the the period of the erasure covered not just one occasion but had been done multiple times, making the idea of an accidental erasure even more highly improbable. White House counsel John Dean later testified as to what one of the erased conversations might have involved.
The tape incident, Dean says, showed that Woods had intimate knowledge about the Watergate scandal. Dean remembers the day he warned Nixon about the cancer on the presidency and told Nixon the Watergate burglars wanted hush money:
“The president said, ‘Well, how much will it cost?’ and I said, ‘It’s gonna cost $1 million.’ And the president said to me, ‘Well, John, I know where we can get that.’ As soon as I left the office, he went in to see Rose Mary and ask her if she had any money. It got picked up on the taping machine.”
I read through the updated indictment that Smith presented and the relevant pages that describe the events are 27-30 (paragraphs 74-87) with the new indictment counts 40-42 on pages 49-53 (paragraphs 111-120).
The Special Counsel told SSAT’s lawyers on June 22, 2022 that they wanted to see the security footage of the storage area where some of the confidential documents had been stored. The next day SSAT (who was at his Bedminster Club in New Jersey) called De Oliveira at Mar-a-Lago and the following day sent the other indicted person, his valet, Waltine Nauta to Mar-a-Lago. The two of them walked through the tunnel where the storage room was, checking out the location of all the security cameras.
De Oliveira then asked an IT person (identified only as Employee 4 but whose title is given in paragraph 80 as the Director of Information Technology at Mar-a-Lago) that ‘the boss’ wanted to delete the contents of the server that contained the security videos that showed them moving boxes of confidential documents before the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. Employee 4 said that he did not know how to do that or even if he had the right to do it, and recommended that they ask a supervisor of security for SSAT’s business organization about it. [UPDATE: Employee 4 has now been identified.]
Although it is not clear from the wording in the indictment whether any of the tapes were erased or were only planned to be erased, given that the FBI and the grand jury received surveillance footage showing the movement of boxes out of the storage area, it looks like at least part of the surveillance footage was not deleted.
SSAT has denied that he ordered that the recordings be deleted, responding in his usual calm and measured way.
But it looks like the Special Counsel has the testimony of Employee 4 that De Oliveira asked him to do so and is likely to use that to put pressure on De Oliveira to give testimony to that effect. The fact that De Oliveira lied to the FBI is something that is also routinely used to threaten people with stiff punishments if they do not cooperate.
In either event, it is very damaging to SSAT since one tries to destroy evidence only if one thinks that one has done something wrong.