Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV.
It happened in real time early this evening on MSNBC. We were watching the Ari Melber show, and the substitute host was interviewing Garret Haake, their Capitol Hill correspondent, about the meeting earlier today between prosecutors from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office and Defendant Trump’s attorneys. Haake was on the screen outside the Department of Justice talking about the meeting when the shot changed to include the host, catching her looking down at her phone.
Suddenly, the story changed. A superseding indictment on the classified documents case had been handed down, and they were just getting hints of what it included. Apparently, Trump was being charged, along with a Mar-a-Lago employee of his, Carlos De Oliveira, for conspiracy to obstruct justice for attempting to delete video surveillance footage that had been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice in June of 2022.
As the story unfolded over the next two hours, it emerged that the indictment also included a new charge against Defendant Trump for mishandling the famous ultra-top-secret plan to attack Iran that he had been waving around at his Bedminster golf club in front of two people interviewing him for Mark Meadows’ memoir.
Remember that? The scene from the tape of the Bedminster interview was included in Defendant Trump’s first indictment in the documents case, but there were no charges attached to either his illegal possession of the document, or his having talked about its contents with persons who did not have security clearances and were not permitted under the law to be in the same room with that document, much less hear details of its contents.
That led to a lot of speculation about why that scene was even in the first indictment. Most legal experts settled on a theory that the actions in that scene, including Defendant Trump’s possession of the Iran attack plan document, could not be charged in the Florida documents case because there had been no search of the Bedminster club, and so the document had not been recovered by the FBI. And besides, if charges were to be made, they would have to be filed in New Jersey where the alleged crime took place.
And now today, there it is! The missing Iran attack plan document! You’ll never guess where Smith’s people apparently found it: at the National Archives. It was among the 15 boxes of documents Defendant Trump turned over to the Archives way back on January 17. 2022, “nearly a year after TRUMP left office” (emphasis in the indictment). This was before, of course the DOJ subpoenaed “any and all classified documents” still in the possession of Defendant Trump, who turned over to the DOJ only 38 of them on June 3, 2022, and of course it was before the FBI got a search warrant and on August 8 of the same year found 102 more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, including a stash in the office of Defendant Trump himself.
The indictment specifies that, “In May 2021, TRUMP caused some of his boxes to be brought to his summer residence at The Bedminster Club. Like The Mar-a-Lago Club, after TRUMP‘s presidency, the Bedminster Club was not an authorized location for the storage possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents.” And yet there the Iran attack plan document was, being waved around and talked about at the equally insecure New Jersey golf club.
That apparently answers the question of why the first indictment didn’t include the Bedminster interview scene and the charge of Defendant Trump possessing this particular top-secret document that didn’t belong to him, but rather belonged to the government and thus to the people of the United States. When prosecutors for Special Counsel Smith recovered the Iran attack plan document from the National Archives, they were apparently able to charge Defendant Trump because the document was already in the possession of the government at the National Archives. So, the indictment concerning the Iran attack plan document increases the indictments for possessing and mishandling national security information from 31 to 32.
The indictment goes back through and quotes numerous statements by Defendant Trump about his alleged dedication to the protection of the nation’s secrets. Reading that section is like imagining a Saturday Night Live skit. Listen to this:
- On August 18, 2016 TRUMP stated, “In my administration I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.”
- On September 6, 2016 TRUMP stated “We also need to fight this battle by collecting intelligence and then protecting, protecting our classified secrets. We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified.”
- On September 7, 2016 TRUMP stated “One of the first things we must do is to enforce all classification rules and to enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified information.”
- On September 19, 2016, TRUMP stated “We also need the best protection of classified information.”
- On November 3, 2016 TRUMP stated “Service members here in North Carolina have risked their lives to acquire classified intelligence to protect our country.”
(Emphasis in original.)
The indictment also includes this separate quotation of a comment made by Defendant Trump when he announced the cancellation of the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. The indictment makes no comment on the quote, just plopping it there to appear like a picked sore:
“As the head of the executive branch and Commander in Chief I have a unique Constitutional responsibility to protect the Nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. More broadly, the issue of a former executive branch official’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our Nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in Government has ended. Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks. Any access granted to our Nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests.”
The rest of the indictment goes into new crimes alleged against the new co-conspirator, Carlos De Oliveira, already-indicted co-conspirator, Walt Nauta, and Defendant Trump himself, outlining how they conspired to “engage in misleading conduct toward another person and corruptly persuade another person to withhold a record document and other object from an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(2)(A) to corruptly persuade another person, with intent to cause and induce any person to alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(2)(B) and to corruptly alter destroy, mutilate, and conceal a record, document and other object from an official proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(I).”
All of which is a charge that they attempted to get a fourth person, not indicted, to delete the security footage that had been subpoenaed by the DOJ on June 22, 2022. The next day, Defendant Trump and Defendant spoke on the phone Oliveira for 24 minutes. The day after that, after texting with Olivieira, Defendant Nauta changed his travel plans and flew to Palm Beach and met with Defendant Oliveira and the employee in charge of the surveillance cameras at Mar-a-Lago, conspiring to delete the footage. One of the meetings took place in closet inside the security room where Defendant Nauta had previously determined there were no security cameras watching or recording audio.
There is a new charge against Defendant Trump for knowingly and willfully causing false statements to be made to the DOJ concerning the classified documents produced in response to the subpoena for those documents, a reference to the so-called certification letter signed by attorney Christina Bobb that a “diligent search” had been conducted of Mar-a-Lago, and that the 38 classified documents being turned over was a complete satisfaction of what the subpoena called for.
There are additional charges against Defendant Nauta for lying to the FBI when they interviewed him about the boxes they moved around Mar-a-Lago to keep the DOJ from finding new classified documents. And there are indictments against Defendants Trump, Nauta, and Oliveira for even more conspiracies to alter or destroy documents, meaning the surveillance camera footage, and a count against Oliveira for lying to the FBI.
The 37-count indictment is now a 42-count indictment, all this transpiring on the same day that Defendant Trump’s attorneys met with prosecutors from the Special Counsel’s office to discuss the next indictment in the pipeline, turning it into a night of full-employment for the legal eagles on the payrolls of MSNBC and CNN.
It’s clear what Special Counsel Smith is doing. He is, as they say in sports, flooding the zone. Midnight oil is being burned in Washington D.C. tonight in the offices of the lawyers representing Defendant Trump, and the fact of this new indictment piled on top of the upcoming indictment on charges of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election means one additional thing, according to former DOJ attorney Andrew Weissmann. There will be a new push by prosecutors to put limits on what Defendant Trump can do, not only communicating with his co-defendants, but in public statements.
Truth Social, already facing severe money problems according to recent reports, will soon be lacking screeds posted by its poster boy, Defendant Trump.
As we’ve been saying practically every day, stay tuned. Much, much more to come.
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com. We encourage our readers to get a subscription.