MIAMI, UNITED STATES — The property manager of Donald Trump’s Florida estate made his first court appearance on Monday to face charges he helped the former president conceal top secret government documents.
Carlos De Oliveira, 56, who is accused of conspiring to obstruct justice, destroying evidence and making false statements, was released pending trial on a bond of US$100,000.
The grey-haired De Oliveira, who was wearing a navy blue suit, did not enter a plea because he has not yet retained a local attorney.
He listened attentively as magistrate judge Edwin Torres read the charges against him at a brief hearing in federal court in Miami.
The 77-year-old Trump pleaded not guilty in June to multiple charges of unlawfully retaining national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.
The former president is scheduled to go on trial next May at the height of what is expected to be a bitter and divisive presidential election campaign.
Trump is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and a New York Times/Siena poll on Monday had him with a commanding 54 per cent to 17 per cent lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis among likely Republican primary voters.
Special counsel Jack Smith filed additional charges against Trump in a superseding indictment last week and added De Oliveira as a co-defendant.
The new charges relate to Trump’s alleged efforts to obstruct the FBI investigation and its bid to recover classified documents he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.
Trump is accused in the latest indictment of attempting to delete security camera footage at his Mar-A-Lago residence to prevent it from being provided to the FBI and a grand jury.
Also charged are Trump’s personal aide Waltine “Walt” Nauta and De Oliveira, the Mar-A-Lago property manager.
Nauta, a 40-year-old US Navy veteran from Guam, served as Trump’s military valet while he was president and has continued working for him in a personal capacity since he left the White House.
Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira allegedly sought to have another Trump employee, who is not identified in the indictment, erase security camera footage at Mar-A-Lago.
De Oliveira, according to the indictment, allegedly told “Trump Employee 4” that “the boss” wanted the server containing security camera footage of a storage room deleted.
De Oliveira is additionally charged with making false statements to the FBI.
Asked if he ever helped unload or move boxes of documents at Mar-A-Lago, De Oliveira said he had not.
“Never saw nothing,” he said.
‘We’re ready to go’
De Oliveira and Nauta are scheduled to go on trial with Trump unless they enter into plea deals with prosecutors bringing the first-ever criminal case against a former president.
The twice-impeached Trump is accused of endangering national security by holding on to top secret nuclear and defense information after leaving the White House.
Trump allegedly kept the files unsecured at Mar-a-Lago — a club that entertains thousands of members and guests every year — and thwarted official efforts to retrieve them.
Trump faces other legal woes including a looming indictment from Smith for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump, in a post on his Truth Social platform on Monday, said he believes an indictment will be coming “any day now” from “Deranged Jack Smith and his highly partisan gang of Thugs” and complained of “election interference.”
Georgia prosecutors are also investigating whether Trump illegally attempted to reverse the election outcome in the southern state.
Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, who has been leading the probe, told a local television station over the weekend that the “work is accomplished” and “we’re ready to go.”
The probe was sparked by Trump’s 2 January 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, when he infamously pressured election officials to “find” the 11,780 votes that would reverse his defeat to Biden in the state.
Trump also faces multiple felony counts in a New York fraud case involving alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.