Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at the Turning Point Action USA conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 15, 2023.
Giorgio Viera | Afp | Getty Images
Donald Trump on Friday defended the handling of surveillance footage at his Florida home that is at the center of major new criminal charges in the federal case over the former president’s retention of classified documents.
“These are my tapes that we gave to them,” Trump told a conservative radio host in his first public interview since being accused of the new crimes.
“And they basically then say, ‘That’s not enough,'” Trump said on “The John Fredericks Show.”
Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also vowed to continue his campaign even if he is convicted and sentenced.
“Not at all, there’s nothing in the Constitution to say that it could,” Trump said when asked if being sentenced would end his presidential bid.
Later in the day, Trump fired off several social media posts raging against the Department of Justice.
He accused special counsel Jack Smith, the prosecutor leading the classified documents probe, of “attempting to destroy the lives of two fine people who have worked for me (and have done a great job!) for a long time.”
“This is textbook Third World intimidation by rabid, lawless prosecutors,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. In a follow-up post, he called for Smith, his prosecutors and Attorney General Merrick Garland to be jailed.
A superseding indictment, filed Thursday evening in federal court in southern Florida, added three criminal counts against Trump on top of the 37 he already faced in the classified documents case. Trump’s valet and alleged co-conspirator, Walt Nauta, also received additional charges. Both have pleaded not guilty to the previous charges against them.
The 60-page document also added a new defendant to the case, Carlos de Oliveira, who is described as the property manager at Trump’s Palm Beach resort home, Mar-a-Lago.
The new charges in the special counsel’s probe center on an alleged attempt by Trump and his aides to delete video surveillance footage that was sought by a federal grand jury in June 2022.
De Oliveira told another Mar-a-Lago employee that “the boss” wanted to delete a server containing surveillance footage showing how Trump’s boxes had been moved around at the club, prosecutors alleged.
That other employee, who is unnamed in the superseding indictment, has been identified by NBC News as Yuscil Taveras. The New York Times reported in May that Taveras was an IT worker who has appeared before a grand jury that questioned him about his dealings with Nauta and de Oliveira.
Trump, Nauta and de Oliveira all face the two new obstruction counts related to that alleged scheme to delete the footage. Those charges carry a 20-year maximum prison term, according to the superseding indictment. De Oliveira is also accused of lying to the FBI when, during a Jan. 13 interview at his house, he denied knowing about the efforts to move boxes of records at Mar-a-Lago.
De Oliveira is set to be arraigned Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Miami before a federal magistrate judge.
Trump was also hit Thursday with a new count of retaining a classified document detailing a U.S. military plan of attack on Iran, which Trump allegedly showed to a writer, publisher and two staff members at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on July 21, 2021. Trump now faces 32 criminal counts of willful retention of national defense information.
But in the interview Friday morning, Trump said that the surveillance footage had been handed over even though he was not sure that it needed to be.
“I don’t think we would have had to give it. I’m not sure that we would have even had to give it. These were security tapes. We handed them over to them,” Trump said. “If we wanted to fight that, I doubt we would have had to give it. But regardless, we gave it.”
“I’m not even sure what they’re saying,” the former president added. “They’re trying to intimidate people so that people go out and make up lies about me because I did nothing wrong.”
Trump also repeated his previous assertion that he is shielded by the Presidential Records Act. Legal experts have disputed Trump’s characterization of that statute, and it is not one of the laws he is accused of violating. Rather, he has been charged with violations of laws including the Espionage Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The special counsel has separately led a criminal probe related to efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn President Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The special counsel last week informed Trump that he is a target in that probe, a notification that typically occurs before the target is charged in a case.