Trump and Aide Plead Not Guilty to New Charges in Documents Case

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Former President Donald J. Trump and his employee, Walt Nauta, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to additional criminal charges. These charges are related to the accusation that Trump unlawfully held onto secret national security documents after leaving office and conspired to obstruct government efforts to retrieve them.

The plea to the new charges was entered by one of Trump’s lawyers, as an updated indictment last month accused him of attempting to delete security footage at his Mar-a-Lago residence and club. Unlike his initial arraignment in June, Trump did not appear in person at the federal courthouse in Florida, choosing to sign a document waiving his appearance and indicating his intention to plead not guilty. During the brief hearing, Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, informed the magistrate judge that his client had authorized him to enter the plea.

The revised indictment also included charges against two employees of Trump, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy to delete the security footage. Nauta stood beside his lawyer, Stanley Woodward Jr., during the hearing, while John Irving, De Oliveira’s lawyer, stated that they were still in the process of finding a local lawyer as required before the arraignment. Despite a request to delay De Oliveira’s arraignment until August 25, the magistrate judge scheduled it for Tuesday, stating that his attendance was not necessary.

The updated indictment added a count under the Espionage Act against Trump for showing a national security document related to attacking Iran to visitors at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. Prosecutors claim that Trump displayed the document during a meeting, where he also mentioned that he could have declassified it as president, but it remained secret.

According to the indictment, the document was discovered among the 15 boxes of files that Trump returned to the National Archives and Records Administration in January 2022, several months after the agency had requested their return. Trump denies having the Iran battle plan during the meeting and insists that he was referring to something else in the recorded conversation.

Simultaneous to the hearing, Trump was playing golf in New Jersey. The revised indictment also includes obstruction allegations against Trump, Nauta, and De Oliveira, stating that they conspired to delete security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago after the government had subpoenaed it. Additionally, De Oliveira was charged with making a false statement to investigators, to which he also pleaded not guilty.

The upcoming trial will be overseen by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, not Judge Maynard who conducted the arraignment. There are ongoing disputes regarding the limitations on Trump and his lawyers in handling and discussing classified evidence. Prosecutors are questioning whether Woodward, who has previously represented individuals connected to Trump, has a conflict of interest in representing Nauta, as he may be called to testify. Judge Cannon has also requested that both sides address the use of a grand jury by Mr. Smith in the District of Columbia, which relates to the Southern District of Florida indictment.

This second arraignment in the documents case follows Trump’s previous appearance at a federal courthouse in Washington, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to undermine American democracy and remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. Trump also faces felony bookkeeping fraud charges in state court in New York, as well as a potential indictment in Georgia for efforts to subvert President Biden’s victory in 2020.

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